U.S. to start national flu vaccination week

13:24, January 08, 2010      

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An "influenza vaccination week" will be launched across the United States next week, a high-ranking health official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday.

"This next week, or beginning this weekend, we're going to kickoff the national influenza vaccination week," Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told a press conference.

"This is a concerted effort by the CDC, (the department of) health and human services and all of our partners to encourage vaccination," she added.

Although only four states were reporting widespread A/H1N1 flu activity in the past week, U.S. health officials cautioned that a new outbreak was possible.

"The H1N1 virus is still circulating and still causing disease, hospitalizations and deaths," Schuchat said. "Many people are still susceptible to this virus and would benefit from vaccination."

The nation-wide vaccination week includes a focus on people at high risk for complications -- adults with emphysema, pregnant women, seniors and children, encouraging vaccination for anyone who hasn't yet been vaccinated and wants to be, she added.

Two weeks ago, the CDC said that nearly 60 million Americans had received the A/H1N1 vaccine.

Schuchat urged Americans not to become complacent and skip the vaccine -- particularly those with chronic health conditions who often do not realize that they fall in a group at high risk for developing complications from influenza.

"Complacency is probably our top enemy," Schuchat said. "I would hate for people to make decisions thinking there is no risk and then get sick or severely ill."

Schuchat noted that during the last flu pandemic in 1957, flu activity quieted down in December and January, and people weren't encouraged to get vaccinated. But the flu did return, and many more people died.

"We don't want to repeat the story from 1957," Schuchat explained. "The best thing for us to do is really focusing on the idea that vaccine is the best way for us to reduce the chances that we will have ongoing disease, hospitalizations and deaths."

With 136 million doses of the A/H1N1 vaccine available in the country, Schuchat advised Americans who have not yet been vaccinated to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

"The illness is down. There's plenty of vaccine. It's a key window of opportunity," she said, adding that "having as many people vaccinated as possible is our best course of action."

Source: Xinhua
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