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Fewer people getting flu shots this year

October 28, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The number of people getting flu vaccinations this year is way down, especially from last year. Infectious disease experts say this could be a recipe for trouble.It's stressful being the primary caregiver for your elderly mom, that's why 60-year-old Gwen MacDonald says getting sick is out of the question.

"I can't afford to be sick and possibly infect my mother," said MacDonald.

But from the looks of a local flu clinic at Kaiser Permanente Panorama City, not too many people are thinking like MacDonald.

"We are seeing a major drop off in enthusiasm among our patients," said Dr. Stanley Shapiro.

Kaiser doctors say the number of people getting flu shots is way down from last year. Infectious disease experts say it appears people are suffering from what can be called "flu fatigue"

"We wanna try and combat that without high level of enthusiasm for vaccination," said Dr. Shapiro.

Last year, fear over the H1N1 strain spurred people to go in droves to flu shot clinics. It's a far different story this year. Dr. Shapiro says he's seen plenty of flu seasons go bad when people don't get vaccinated.

"Because we'll have a lot of unprotected people in the population that is a recipe for a bad outcome," said Dr. Shapiro.

This season's shot is recommended for everyone over 6 months of age. It contains three strains including the H1N1 flu. Dr. Shapiro says so far the vaccine appears to be quite protective against the strains circulating in our communities.

People forget that influenza accounts for 200,000 hospitalizations and an average of 24,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

The very old, the very young and those with compromised immune systems are at most risk.

"The risk of death from influenza is 1 in 8,500 people," said Dr. Shapiro. "That's a compelling number to me."

"Protect yourself and get a flu shot," said MacDonald. "It's simple and painless."

Getting a flu shot this year is just one more way to protect the people you love.

And Dr. Shapiro adds pregnant women also need to go in and get a flu shot. There's plenty of supply. If you can't get it at your doctor's office or a clinic, many drug and grocery stores are also offering the vaccine.


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