The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that the nation's influenza vaccine manufacturers report that more than 103 million doses of influenza (flu) vaccine have been distributed as of November 2 -- an amount that represents more doses than had ever previously been distributed at this date.
"This is good news. Influenza vaccine appears to be more widely available than ever before, and we want people who should be receiving an annual flu vaccination to be sure that they do," said Dr. Jeanne Santoli, deputy director of CDC's Immunization Services Division.
"Thanks to the increased production of flu vaccine, more people than ever can get protection from a potentially very serious disease. We are hopeful that this year a record number of people will get vaccinated."
CDC officials believe that most influenza vaccine providers currently have supplies sufficient for meeting demand. As many as 132 million total doses of vaccine could be produced by the end of the 2007-2008 flu seasons, according to manufacturers. This record amount would be about12 million more doses than were produced during the 2006-2007 season.
During the 2006-2007 season, manufacturers distributed 102.5 million doses to providers. CDC officials have worked closely with flu vaccine manufacturers, distributors and the Food and Drug Administration to ensure improved flu vaccine availability.
Santoli noted that some healthcare providers may not have received their complete order of vaccine yet, as CDC has encouraged vaccine manufacturers and major distributors to use partial vaccine shipments to get doses to as many providers as possible at the earliest opportunity.
Flu vaccine distribution typically continues through December and early January.
The 2007-2008 influenza season is just beginning, and nationwide, influenza activity is currently very low. So far, only two states are reporting local influenza activity. In the United States, influenza activity can begin as early as October and continues through May. Each year, on average, from five to 20 percent of the U.S. population is infected with influenza, with influenza estimated to result in 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations from flu-related complications in a typical year.
Santoli noted that almost 75 percent of Americans are recommended to be vaccinated, and that health care providers and people at higher risk for influenza-related medical complications should especially make getting a flu vaccination a high priority. While anyone can get influenza, the flu can be particularly dangerous for certain groups of people who are at greater risk of developing serious flu-related complications, such as pneumonia. Groups at higher risk of flu-related complications include infants and young children, pregnant women, children and adults with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, and people 65 years old and older.
In addition, close contacts of high risk persons, such as other household members, caregivers and health care personnel should also get vaccinated in order to protect their loved ones or those they care for.
Vaccination of those who live with or care for infants is particularly important because children less than six months of age should not get a flu vaccine. Vaccination is also encouraged for anyone who wants to decrease his or her risk of getting the flu.
Since the onset, duration and severity of flu season is unpredictable, and different types and strains of influenza circulate throughout the flu season, CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that influenza vaccine be offered as long as influenza viruses are continuing to circulate in the community.