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COLUMBIA, Md.-- Maxim Health Systems is set to launch its annual influenza vaccination program on Oct. 1, 2004, making flu shots available through 19,000 convenient locations across the United States. The program aims to increase the number of people who get vaccinated, a step determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the single most effective way to prevent flu. Maxim's Web site, www.FindAFluShot.com, helps users quickly locate nearby vaccination sites based on their local zip code.
Each year as many as 65 million Americans fall victim to influenza and flu-related complications, such as pneumonia, resulting in 114,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths. High-risk individuals are especially encouraged to get vaccinated. High-risk groups include everyone 50 years or older, anyone with chronic medical problems or conditions that weaken the immune system, women who expect to be pregnant during flu season, residents of long-term care facilities housing persons with chronic medical conditions, people six months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment and children from six to 23 months of age. In addition, people in close contact with these high-risk individuals, such as their household contacts and healthcare workers, should be vaccinated.
"The flu vaccine is our best defense against influenza with the ability to significantly lower infections and deaths attributed to the flu each year," said Dr. Raymond Strikas, associate director for adult immunization for the Immunization Services Division, National Immunization Program for the CDC.
Maxim conducts its flu clinics at convenient retail locations, such as pharmacies and supermarkets. Finding the nearest location is as simple as typing in your zip code on www.FindAFluShot.com. This will provide the address, date and times for flu shots at local clinics. The Website also provides the latest news on influenza and links to other resources to learn more about the flu and its prevention. For those who prefer to find a convenient location over the phone, Maxim provides a toll-free number at (877) 962-9358. Maxim also offers flu shots to corporations that want to offer employee vaccinations.
"We believe that everyone who can should get a flu shot and we especially encourage those in high-risk categories along with their family members to get vaccinated," said Steve Wright, national director of wellness services for Maxim Health Systems. "While there are potential supply issues this year, the CDC has not recommended a two-tier prioritization approach and we are able to vaccinate everyone who requests a shot. Maxim is closely following the vaccine supply and if for any reason the CDC should change recommendations, we are ready to act accordingly."
While each flu season is unique, the CDC estimates that between 5 percent and 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu each year. At present, the CDC does not envision any need for tiered vaccination recommendations for this upcoming season, as the vaccine supply is expected to be adequate by October. The CDC expects more than 100 million vaccines will be available before flu season this year -- up more than 15 percent over 2003.
The CDC defines those with an increased risk of developing influenza-related complications as:
-- Persons 50 years of age or older
-- Adults and children with chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes
-- Residents of long-term care facilities housing persons with chronic medical conditions
-- People six months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment
-- Pregnant women who will be in their second or third trimester of pregnancy during the influenza season
-- Children six to 23 months of age
Source: Maxim Health Systems