With several months still left in the influenza season and growing supplies of vaccine, now is a great time to get vaccinated against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. During National Influenza Vaccination Week, Jan. 10-16, the nation’s experts in treating and preventing infectious diseases are joining the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in urging everyone—especially healthcare workers—to protect themselves and those around them by getting vaccinated, if they haven’t already.
“Immunization is the best defense we have to prevent the spread of H1N1 influenza in the months ahead,” said Richard Whitley, MD, FIDSA, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). “Extensive testing has shown the H1N1 vaccine to be not only safe but also an effective and excellent match for the H1N1 virus. As health care providers, we owe it to our patients to take advantage of this opportunity to protect ourselves and those we care for by getting vaccinated against H1N1. It’s not too late.”
More than 118 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine have been made available nationwide, and the supply continues to grow. “With influenza activity declining in many areas, this week is a perfect time to get vaccinated and help prevent H1N1 from spreading and causing more illness, hospitalizations, and even deaths in the coming months,” said Neil Fishman, MD, president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA). “Healthcare workers, who interact with patients every day, share an ethical obligation to protect themselves and their patients by getting the H1N1 vaccine.”
Vaccination is a good idea for everyone but especially for those most at risk for influenza complications and healthcare workers. The science is clear. Several studies have shown that healthcare workers who are immunized against influenza help reduce patient morbidity and mortality. Workers immunized against H1N1 are also less likely to become ill from this infection and miss work, which could further hurt patient care during an influenza outbreak.
Last month, IDSA and SHEA joined more than 30 other professional medical organizations in signing an open letter to the American people encouraging H1N1 vaccination, especially for people with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, children, young adults, caretakers of infants, and health care workers. The letter can be found at: http://www.flu.gov/news/openletter.html. For more information about the H1N1 vaccine, including where to find a vaccination clinic in your community, visit www.flu.gov. To learn more about National Influenza Vaccination Week activities, see www.flu.gov/getvaccinated.