NEW YORK -- As the flu season is about to begin, the American Lung Association today launched its online "flu shot locator" at http://www.lungusa.org to help more people find and obtain flu vaccinations in their neighborhoods.
"Approximately 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths are due to influenza-associated illness each year, so it is imperative for people to receive the flu shot annually, and October and November is the time to do it," said John Kirkwood, president of the American Lung Association. "That's why the American Lung Association launched this online flu shot locator tool, and we are working overtime to make sure that as many people as possible use it before flu season swings into high gear. Even if you miss the best time to receive the flu shot, you can still get a shot at anytime throughout the season."
"People who receive the flu shot have greatly reduced their chances of contracting not only the flu, but infectious complications of the flu," said Norman H. Edelman, MD, the American Lung Association's consultant for medical affairs. "Vaccination with the flu shot has been associated with reductions in physician visits, hospitalizations and death among the elderly, young children and people with chronic conditions, including those with asthma. In addition, the introduction of SARS and the Avian Flu has increased the need for the flu shot since symptoms of all three diseases are similar. Receiving the flu shot can help your doctor determine the true cause of illness and prescribe the correct medical course." The Lung Association's flu shot locator is the largest interactive Web site of its kind, enabling individuals to find the most convenient location to obtain a flu shot from more than 20,000 locations across the country. Prices for the flu shot vary throughout the United States and can cost up to $20. Insurance companies usually cover the shot, and individuals can contact their local health departments for more information.
"We are pleased to be working with the American Lung Association to include the locations of CDC-funded public health providers and clinics to give Americans the best resource possible to find a flu vaccine," said Ray Strikas, MD, associate director for adult immunization at the Centers for Disease Control National Immunization Program. "By making it easier to find a flu vaccine we hope that people will be more inclined to be vaccinated."
When the American Lung Association launched the flu shot locator last year, millions of people visited the Lung Association web site, typed in their zip codes and found where they could go to obtain flu shots. This year, the Lung Association updated the flu shot locator to include thousands more locations. The upgrade announcement came at a press conference held today by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
New Flu Shot Locator Features
The expanded locator now includes more than 20,000 different locations across the United States and can search within a 50-mile radius of the desired zip code. In addition, new features enable consumers to set up reminders about when a flu vaccination site is coming to their area, and a "send a friend" option allows consumers to tell their friends and family members about the locator.
Seniors Remain Largest Group at Risk of Dying from Influenza
Influenza and pneumonia is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States overall and the fifth leading cause of death for people 65 and older.
Although a national objective for the year 2010 is to increase influenza vaccination levels greater than 90 percent among persons aged 65 years and older, the current percentage is only 68.7 percent indicating that further improvements in vaccine coverage levels are needed.
Children Ages 6-23 Months
Rates of infection are highest in children, but those aged six to 23 months are at increased risk of influenza-related hospitalizations. Therefore, the ACIP has recommended, for the first time, that children age six to 23 months and household contacts of these children should be vaccinated with the flu shot annually. Older children with high-risk medical conditions are also recommended to receive the flu shot annually.
The Flu Vaccine and Asthma
Vaccination rates among people with asthma are low since some medical professionals and the public believe receiving the flu vaccine may worsen or exacerbate asthma. However, the American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Center network found that the opposite was true and that receiving the flu vaccine is safe for people with asthma. They did not find that the vaccine causes higher rates of side effects for people with asthma compared with people who did not receive the vaccination. As a result, the Lung Association is urging those with asthma to get a flu shot.
Source: American Lung Association