WASHINGTON, D.C. — More children than ever got vaccinated against the flu last year, and health officials urged families Thursday to do even better this time around.
Far too many young and middle-aged adults still forego the yearly protection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned.
And this year, Americans have an unprecedented number of vaccine options to choose from: The regular shot; the nasal spray; an egg-free shot for those allergic to eggs; a high-dose shot just for those 65 and older; and a tiny-needle shot for the squeamish. The bigger change: A small number of the regular flu shots, and all of the FluMist nasal vaccine, will protect against four strains of influenza rather than the traditional three.
“There’s something for everyone this year,” said CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat.
A severe flu strain swept the country last winter, sparking a scramble for last-minute vaccinations. There’s no way to predict if this year will be as bad. But it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, so health officials say early fall — before flu begins spreading widely — is the best time to start immunizations.
“Now is the time to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Paul Biddinger of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Don’t wait until it’s in your community.”
Boston declared a public health emergency last January when hospitals were filled with flu patients, and Biddinger said he treated many who openly regretted not having been vaccinated.
January and February typically are the peak flu months in the U.S. But small numbers of flu cases circulate for much of the year, and Biddinger said a couple of people have been hospitalized already.
“That first cough or fever is not the time to think about influenza vaccine,” Schuchat said.