Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today urged residents who have not yet received this season’s flu immunization to get one soon as part of National Influenza Vaccination Week, which runs from December 1-7, 2019.
“We encourage residents to protect themselves, their families and their community by getting their flu shots,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Doing so will prevent the spread of this disease to others, especially those who are at high risk for complications from flu.”
Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Tomarken said, “Flu is a highly contagious disease that can cause mild to severe illness that can potentially lead to hospitalization and even death. The 2019-2020 vaccine has been updated from last season’s vaccine to better match circulating viruses. Recommendations for immunizations change each year, therefore, we urge residents to ask their health care providers about what vaccine is right for them.”
The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated will protect not only you but also people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.
Influenza is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women of reproductive age who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women -- and women up to two weeks postpartum -- more prone to severe illness from flu, including illness resulting in hospitalization. Flu also may be harmful for a pregnant woman’s developing baby. A common flu symptom is fever, which may be associated with brain or spinal cord defects and other adverse outcomes for a developing baby.
Vaccination reduces the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by up to one-half. A 2018 study showed that getting a flu shot reduced a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 percent. Getting vaccinated also can help protect a baby after birth from flu because mothers pass antibodies onto the developing babies during pregnancy.
During most flu seasons, adults 65 years and older bear the greatest burden of severe flu disease. It’s estimated that between about 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older, and between 50 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in this age group. In recent years, flu vaccines have reduced the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations among adults on average by about 40 percent. A 2018 study showed that from 2012 to 2015, flu vaccination among adults reduced the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit with flu by 82 percent.
Influenza is more dangerous than the common cold for children. Each year, millions of children get sick with seasonal flu, thousands are hospitalized, and some die from flu. Children commonly need medical care because of flu, especially children younger than five years old. A 2014 study showed that flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission by 74 percent during flu seasons from 2010-2012, and a 2017 study was the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from influenza.
Annual flu vaccination is especially important for people with asthma, diabetes, HIV, cancer and neurologic conditions because they are at high risk of developing serious flu complications. Flu vaccines are updated as needed each season to keep up with changing viruses. Also, immunity wanes over a year so annual vaccination is needed to ensure the best possible protection against flu. Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce the severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. A flu vaccine protects against the flu viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Immunity sets in after about two weeks after vaccination.
A 2018 study showed that among adults hospitalized with flu, vaccinated patients were 59 percent less likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit than those who had not been vaccinated. Among adults in the ICU with flu, vaccinated patients on average spent four fewer days in the hospital than those who were not vaccinated.