Health Department Reminds New Yorkers to Get Their Flu Shot; Influenza Activity Usually Peaks Between January and March

The flu can be deadly for children under five, pregnant women, people with diabetes, heart or lung disease, and people over 65

Vaccine is widely available; to find a vaccine, New Yorkers can call 311, visit nyc.gov/flu for the Flu Vaccine Locator or text “flu” to 877877

January 12, 2018 — The Health Department today reminded all New Yorkers to get their annual flu shot so they are protected against the influenza virus and its severe symptoms and complications. Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory viral illness that can cause significant illness and death. As expected for this time of year, influenza activity is on the rise. A flu shot, administered even after the flu season has arrived, can still provide immunity and mitigate the symptoms and complications should one contract the virus. The vaccine is widely available at commercial pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and City clinics and is typically free or covered by a co-pay. Most New Yorkers will only experience mild discomfort at the injection site on the upper arm. To get a flu vaccine, check with your medical care provider. Adults (18 years and older) can go to a chain pharmacy or the many independent pharmacies that offer flu vaccine throughout the city. For more information about where to get vaccinated, call 311, visit nyc.gov/flu for the Flu Vaccine Locator or text “flu” to 877877.

“As we have seen in many other years at this time, flu activity is on the rise. The good news is that it’s not too late to get a flu shot,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Getting the flu is miserable, and it can be deadly for certain New Yorkers, including children under five, pregnant women, people with diabetes, heart or lung disease, and people over 65. The flu vaccine is widely available, and I urge New Yorkers to get their flu shot today.”

In October, the Health Department launched a citywide awareness campaign, “I Got My Flu Shot…Not the Flu,” reminding New Yorkers that the flu vaccine is the best protection against influenza and its terrible symptoms.

More New Yorkers die from influenza and pneumonia than from any other infection. In 2015, 2,094 New Yorkers died from influenza and pneumonia, which is a common complication of influenza. About 90 percent of influenza-related deaths are among people aged 65 years and older. For the 2016-17 influenza season, there were 106 influenza-associated pediatric deaths nationally, including six influenza-associated pediatric deaths in New York City.

"As our city faces one of the coldest winters in decades, it’s not too late for New Yorkers to protect themselves from the flu, which poses a serious danger to young children, pregnant women and the seniors in our communities," said Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the City Council Health Committee. "I strongly urge New Yorkers across the City to get a flu vaccine as soon as possible if they haven't already. I am grateful to the Health Department's commitment to raising awareness about the flu vaccine, and I look forward to working with them in the future to ensure every New Yorker has access to this kind of potentially lifesaving health care."

Influenza vaccination among children and adults
In 2016, younger adults continued to get vaccinated at lower rates: 35 percent for people aged 18-49 years, 48 percent for people aged 50-64 years, and 65 percent for people aged 65 years and older.

Influenza vaccination coverage for all children in New York City remains below the national coverage goal of 70 percent. More than one-third of the children most vulnerable to influenza infection, those under five years of age, were not vaccinated against influenza last season. For the 2016-17 season, flu vaccination coverage rates for children with at least one dose was: 61 percent for children 6-59 months old, 49 percent for children aged 5-8 years, and 37 percent for youth aged 9-18 years.

Racial disparities in influenza vaccination
Vaccination coverage disparities persist between Black and White New Yorkers 65 years and older; 50 percent for Black adults compared to 69 percent for White adults in 2016.

Groups at risk and recommendations
While annual flu vaccination is recommended for all people aged six months and older, it is especially recommended for those at risk of developing influenza-related complications. Those at risk include: children under five, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart or lung disease, and those over 65 years of age. Health care workers and people who live or work with people at high risk of influenza complications also need a flu vaccine to avoid infecting others.

The flu vaccine can help prevent the pain and misery of influenza. It has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalizations among several high-risk groups, including people with diabetes, chronic lung disease and those over 50 years of age. Pregnant women have a four-fold higher risk of being hospitalized if they get the flu. A flu vaccine can protect them and their infant by passing on protective antibodies to their infants until they can get their own vaccine at six months.

If you are sick with the flu, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them and seek care. There are antiviral drugs that a health care worker can prescribe that can treat influenza, reducing the time that you are ill and preventing some of the more serious complications of this infection. People at high risk for influenza complications should speak to their medical provider about antiviral medication if they develop influenza-like symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Additionally, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub.

###

#002-18

MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez, (347) 396-4177
PressOffice@health.nyc.gov