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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that influenza vaccine was used during the first part of the 2004-2005 flu season to vaccinate those at highest risk of serious complications from influenza, including young children, the elderly, those with chronic health conditions, and healthcare workers.
Data collected during the first three weeks of January by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) indicated that 57.3 percent of children aged six to 23 months were vaccinated during September through December 2004, the first year that influenza vaccination was added to the childhood immunization schedule. A 2002 survey indicated only 7.7 percent in the same age group were vaccinated for influenza. Influenza vaccine has a higher first year vaccination coverage than the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) at 40.9 percent in 2002 or the varicella vaccine at 16 percent in 1996.
"It is wonderful news that so many children are being vaccinated against a potentially life-threatening illness like influenza," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC director. "We must continue to urge parents to vaccinate their children and urge those at high risk for serious complications from influenza to step up and get vaccinated because the shot can save lives."
The BRFSS survey results show that influenza vaccination continued during the month of December and was concentrated in the vaccination priority groups outlined for the 2004-2005 season. Vaccination coverage among adults in priority groups was 43.1 percent compared with 8.3 percent vaccination coverage for adults not in priority groups. To date in this influenza season, nearly 59 percent of persons aged 65 years and older reported influenza vaccination through December 2004 compared to 65.5 percent of persons in this age group who reported influenza vaccination in the 2003 National Health Interview Survey.
CDC estimates that approximately 3.5 million doses of influenza vaccine are still available for use through the end of the influenza season. Because February is often the most severe month of the influenza season and because influenza viruses might continue to circulate for several more weeks it's not too late to benefit from vaccination this season. Persons at highest risk for serious complications from influenza should continue to seek influenza vaccine from their local health departments or healthcare providers.