New York needs flu shots

New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene today has asked the law makers of the state to pass a bill allowing pharmacists to give flu and pneumonia shots.

Flu shot, a vaccine, is an innoculation designed to increase immunity against a specific disease. The influenza vaccine is an annual vaccine to protect against the highly variable influenza virus.

Vaccination against influenza is recommended for most members of high-risk groups who would be likely to suffer complications from influenza. Specific recommendations include all children and teenagers, from six months to 18 years; of age

In expanding the new upper age limit to 18 years, the aim is to reduce both the time children and parents lose from visits to pediatricians and missing school and the need for antibiotics for complications.

An added expected benefit would be indirect — to reduce the number of influenza cases among parents and other household members, and possibly spread to the general community.

Health officials are calling for the legislation giving pharmacists the authority to give flu shots because of the widespread prevalence of influenza in New York City. Reports show that there are more than 1,000 flu-related visits to emergency rooms each day.

 About 20 percent of the current flu vaccine supply is unused. The health department hopes to get more of the population in New York City vaccinated, once the bill is passed.

“Influenza and pneumonia kill more than 2,000 New Yorkers every year,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the health commissioner.

“Many of these deaths are preventable. By expanding access to these vaccines, we will save lives. If our legislators take action on this measure now, we can look forward to less illness and death next year,” Dr. Freiden added.

Already 47 states in the US have adopted the bill allowing pharmacists to give flu and pneumonia vaccines. Studies show that vaccination rates have tripled in those states.

The annual flu kills an estimated 36,000 people in the United States , and causes a much larger number of hospitalizations.

Each year the influenza virus changes and different strains become dominant. Due to the high mutability of the virus a particular vaccine formulation usually works for only about a year. The World Health Organization coordinates the contents of the vaccine each year to contain the most likely strains of the virus to attack the next year.

The annually updated trivalent flu vaccine for the 2007–2008 season consists of hemagglutinin (HA) surface glycoprotein components from influenza H3N2, H1N1, and B influenza viruses.

Last materials