WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The American Lung Association is making it a little easier for people to get their flu shot this season with the availability of its 2008-2009 Flu Clinic Locator. The largest online directory of public influenza vaccination clinics is now available at http://www.flucliniclocator.org.
The American Lung Association's Flu Clinic Locator is an easy-to-use online resource, enabling individuals to find the most convenient place to get their flu shot. The locator includes more than 40,000 clinic locations across the country, searchable by ZIP code. It also provides the option to set up an appointment e-mail reminder, along with the option to sign up for influenza-specific updates throughout the season.
At a national news conference today, health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and other groups strongly urged Americans to get vaccinated throughout the entire influenza season (October through May) to protect themselves from this potentially deadly disease.
With nearly 250 million people now recommended to receive a yearly influenza vaccine, the American Lung Association warns that most people don't realize they need to be vaccinated. Influenza immunization rates among adults and children fall short of public health goals every year despite government recommendations. On average, 36,000 Americans die and 226,000 people are hospitalized each year due to influenza and its complications.
"Despite serious health risks associated with influenza, many people just don't see themselves as needing a flu shot," says Norman H. Edelman, MD, the American Lung Association’s chief medical officer. "With more than 4 out of 5 Americans now recommended to be immunized, the public needs to take flu season seriously and heed government recommendations. People in higher risk categories such as those 50 years and older in addition to people with chronic health problems such as asthma, diabetes, COPD and heart disease must make getting vaccinated a priority.”
Recent studies suggest that people 70 years of age and older whom receive the influenza vaccine may not develop the same level of protection against the virus as their younger counterparts. The American Lung Association advises that older people still get vaccinated, because the vaccine likely provides at least some protection and is associated with few side effects.
The Lung Association also recommends that all school age children – 5 through 18 years of age -- be vaccinated, since this segment of the population is among the main transmitters of the flu virus. Studies have shown that vaccinating school age children is likely to be effective at preventing influenza in populations at high risk for complications associated with the flu, especially older people.
"Parents should also keep in mind that children 6 to 59 months of age are considered a high risk group and should be vaccinated as should women who are pregnant during flu season," noted Edelman.
To help Americans see themselves among the large demographic groups the government recommends get vaccinated each year, the Lung Association will launch, later this fall, its annual Faces of Influenza campaign in collaboration with sanofi pastuer - a major national initiative designed to show Americans firsthand the seriousness of this potentially deadly infectious disease. More information can be found online at http://www.facesofinfluenza.org.
Prices for the flu shot vary throughout the U.S. and can cost up to $20; although vaccination is often covered by insurance. Individuals should contact their local health provider or health department for more information.
Source: American Lung Association