Two-Thirds of Flu Vaccine Doses Distributed, CDC Says
Despite a well-publicized delay in delivery of "potentially lifesaving" flu shots earlier this fall, about two-thirds of this year's 75 million doses have been distributed, the CDC said yesterday. Officials added that with only two states -- Kentucky and Texas -- reporting flu outbreaks as of the week ending Nov. 25, flu cases appeared to be less common this year than they were at this time last year, when "influenza activity began increasing in mid-December." Although officials cautioned that flu activity is likely to increase as the winter progresses and that it is too early to know what the predominant virus strain will be, they said the majority of cases that have been seen so far this fall have been influenza type A, subtype H1N1 -- a strain that has traditionally caused less severe outbreaks. Estimates indicate that the flu causes some 114,000 hospitalizations and 20,000 deaths per year. Those who are older than 50; suffer from certain chronic diseases; reside in nursing homes or other long term care facilities; or are pregnant are considered most at risk, as are those who work with high-risk populations. CDC officials said that as the flu season will likely run through April, vaccines given now can still be effective ( Reuters/San Jose Mercury News, 12/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.