This year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all children ages 6 months through 18 years get a flu vaccine. According to the CDC, vaccinating more children may help prevent them from getting flu, as well as reduce overall transmission within communities.
This year's flu vaccine is available on time and in sufficient supply, said Dr. Jay Butler, Alaska's Chief Medical Officer. In some recent years, that was not the case.
Flu vaccine should be provided to all people who want to reduce their risk of becoming sick from influenza or of transmitting the virus to others. However, state and federal health officials emphasize the importance of vaccinating people in the following target groups because they are at higher risk for developing flu-related complications or transmitting the disease to others:
Adults age 50 or older;
Children ages 6 months through 18 years;
Women who are pregnant or could become pregnant during the flu season;
People with compromised immunities or chronic health problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV infection and asthma;
Residents of nursing homes or chronic care facilities;
Anyone who has regular contact with the above groups, including all health care workers.
For the first time, Health and Social Services is distributing FluMist®, which is administered as a nasal spray.
"That's a benefit for children and others who are fearful of shots," said Gerri Yett, the state's deputy immunization program manager.
Studies also have shown that FluMist® may be more effective at preventing influenza in younger children than routine flu shots.
FluMist® is licensed for use in healthy people ages 2 through 49 years old who are not pregnant. However, due to a limited supply of doses, the state will provide FluMist® only for healthy children ages 2 through 5.
Public and private health-care providers are just beginning to receive the state-supplied vaccine.
Yett encourages Alaskans to contact their medical providers before going to a clinic to be sure they have flu shots available.
With just one dose of vaccine, most adults and children can receive protection against flu viruses that can cause high fever, headache and body aches, extreme fatigue, cough, sore throat, and a runny or congested nose for a week, if not longer.
Health and Social Services is not the only supplier of flu vaccines in Alaska. Private providers can purchase their own flu shots and FluMist®, so it is possible that people could be able to find that vaccines are already available in their communities.
For more information about flu vaccination, visit http://www.epi.hss.state.ak.us/, call the Alaska Immunization Hotline at 1-888-430-4321 or contact your health-care provider.