Flu season update

Flu season update

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recap of flu outbreaks over the past 30 years, influenza typically peaks in February. So we found it noteworthy to learn in a “Flu Review” survey that we conducted at the end of December that 56 percent of respondents still had not received their flu shots, despite the CDC’s guidance this flu season that anyone six months or older receive a shot.  While some who have not yet gotten their shot may believe flu season is behind them – our research revealed the widespread misperception that flu season peaks in November and December – the CDC’s historical data indicates that people without this season’s vaccination remain at risk.

Current influenza trends also underscore the importance of vaccination – eight states are now reporting widespread outbreaks of influenza, according to the CDC’s latest report. Most of our survey respondents – 93 percent – were aware that incidences of flu have been reported, so vaccination rates may still pick up in response to this awareness. Since the vaccination takes up to two weeks to become effective, we believe it is important for people to act now to be protected in advance of the expected spike in flu cases next month.

An additional factor in the lagging vaccination rate may be another misperception that continues to linger – that the injectable flu shot can give people the flu. In fact, the injectable influenza vaccination contains inactive viruses, which cannot give you the flu. Despite efforts by the CDC and others in health care to dispel this concern about injectable influenza vaccine, 37 percent of our “Flu Review” survey respondents told us they still worry about the shots. With this in mind, we will continue working to ensure that our MinuteClinic and CVS/pharmacy patients understand the facts and the importance of getting vaccinated.

A key part of our effort in this area is public education – check out our Health Alert: Flu resource center for detailed information and links to the CDC and others.  We also have tried to make vaccination as convenient as possible, by offering flu shots at all of our CVS/pharmacy stores and MinuteClinic locations.  Licensed pharmacists are available to vaccinate at all 7,100 CVS/pharmacy stores and flu shots can be scheduled in-store or by using our online flu shot scheduler. At more than 500 MinuteClinic walk-in medical clinics located inside select CVS/pharmacy stores in 26 states and the District of Columbia, flu vaccines are available on demand without an appointment, and are administered daily by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. We also are continuing our practice of providing flu shot vouchers to those in need.

This year, only one vaccine is required for protection against three influenza strains, including the H1N1 virus and the seasonal H3N2 virus. MinuteClinic nurse practitioners can vaccinate patients who are 18 months or older, except in Massachusetts where the minimum age is 24 months. All CVS/pharmacy stores can issue flu shots to parties 18 years of age and up. For parties under 18 years old, the minimum age for vaccinations by a pharmacist varies by state. Check with your local CVS/pharmacy or the My Flu Shot Scheduler to find CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic locations where vaccinations are available for parties under 18 years old.

To follow the CDC’s weekly tracking of the 2010-2011 flu season yourself, check out its Flu Activity & Surveillance page – a good resource for tracking influenza through the season.

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