More than one-third of people in the U.S. have received their flu shot so far this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today.
As of November, 111 million people ages 6 months or older, or 36 percent of the United States population, were vaccinated against the flu, a spokesperson for the CDC said. That's about 3.5 percent more people than were vaccinated at this time last year.
Officials saw particular increases in vaccination rates for children and health care workers. So far, 37 percent of children have been vaccinated this year, compared with 31 percent at this time last year, and 63 percent of health care workers have received vaccines, compared with 56 percent last year.
The announcement was made to mark the start of the CDC's National Influenza Vaccination Week, a campaign to promote flu vaccination before the usual uptick in flu cases occuring in January and February.
"As the holiday season approaches, take time to get vaccinated," Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said at today's news conference.
Officials urged the public to get their vaccine before supplies run low.
"People looking for it right now should be able to find it," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, but she added that might not be the case a few months from now. The CDC estimated earlier this year that about 170 million doses would be made available this season.
"Don’t put this off forever, because you may find yourself or your family quite ill if you do," Schuchat said.
The estimates for flu vaccinate rates were based on telephone and cellphone surveys that took place in the first two weeks of November.
The flu is an unpredictable disease and can cause illness even in healthy people, Koh said. Between 1976 and 2006, yearly deaths from the flu in this country have varied from just a few thousand to nearly 50,000. The disease causes about 200,000 hospitalizations each year.
The CDC recommends all people over 6 months of age receive a flu shot.
Cases of the flu have been reported and confirmed in 30 states so far. Although flu activity has remained low this season, that could change in the coming months, Schuchat said.
Vaccination is particularly important for those at risk for complications from flu. These include children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart and lung disease.
"Put getting vaccinated on your holiday to-do list," Schuchat said.
In addition to traditional clinics,people can get their flu shots in workplaces, pharmacies and even grocery stores.
Pass it on: It's not too late to get a flu shot this year, the CDC says.