As we enter peak flu season, flu activity is steadily increasing in the United States, with eight states now reporting widespread outbreaks of influenza cases according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.(1)
Despite this surge in flu activity, a recent CVS/pharmacy "Flu Review" survey shows 56 percent of respondents still have not received their shot, although 93 percent are aware that there already have been reported cases of the flu this season.
According to the CDC, the month with the highest percentage of flu cases (nearly 50 percent) is February.(2) Yet many consumers are unaware that the highest risk month is just ahead. The CVS/pharmacy survey revealed 32 percent thought the flu season peaked in November and December, and more than one-third (37 percent) incorrectly believed getting the flu shot can give you the flu, when in fact, the injectable influenza vaccination contains inactive viruses that cannot give you the flu.
"If you haven't already received a flu shot, it's not too late," says Papatya Tankut, RPh, vice president of pharmacy professional services at CVS/pharmacy. "Since the vaccine takes up to two weeks to become effective, it's important to act now so you'll be protected in February, when most flu cases are generally reported."
Licensed pharmacists are available to vaccinate at all 7,100 CVS/pharmacy stores and flu shots can be scheduled in-store or by using the online flu shot scheduler at www.cvs.com/flu. At more than 500 MinuteClinic walk-in medical clinics located inside select CVS/pharmacy stores in 26 states and the District of Columbia, flu vaccines are available on demand without an appointment, and are administered daily by nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
This year, only one vaccine is required for protection against three influenza strains, including the H1N1 virus and the seasonal H3N2 virus. The CDC is recommending for the first time that anyone ages six months or older get a flu shot. MinuteClinic nurse practitioners can vaccinate patients who are 18 months or older, except in Massachusetts where the minimum age is 24 months. All CVS/pharmacy stores can issue flu shots to parties 18 years of age and up. For parties under 18 years old, the minimum age for vaccinations by a pharmacist varies by state. Check with your local CVS/pharmacy or click on My Flu Shot Scheduler at cvs.com/flu to find CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic locations where vaccinations are available for parties under 18 years old.
These findings are from a survey conducted online Dec. 30-31, 2010 among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,050 adults 18 years and older. The data were weighted to reflect the demographic composition of the 18+ population. Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated. Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton, N.J., conducted the fieldwork on behalf of CVS/pharmacy.
(1) "FluView Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 7, 2011.
(2) "The Flu Season," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 10, 2010, http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm.