CDC Director Tom Frieden gets a flu shot at a news conference hosted Thursday by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Photo by NFID

Less than 50 percent of Americans received flu vaccinations this past flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The consequences of flu-related illnesses include tens of thousands of hospitalizations, thousands of deaths, the loss of roughly 17 million workdays and more than $87 billion in lost productivity annually.

At a news conference yesterday, health leaders convened in Washington, D.C., to make a U.S. public service announcement: Get your flu shots and we can prevent so much of it.

“No one is exempt from flu’s most severe consequences,” said William Schaffner, immediate past-president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “There’s simply no reason to take the risk.”

While some of the latest flu statistics were positive — notably that more schoolchildren are getting vaccinations — the overall numbers were disappointing. Nearly 60 percent of cases from the last flu season were among people between 18 and 64 years of age. And more than 100 children died from flu-related complications, 90 percent of whom were not vaccinated and roughly 50 percent had no pre-exisiting condition.

Additionally, only 52 percent of pregnant women were immunized last year, though they are at higher risk for flu-related illnesses and deaths. Massachusetts General Hospital Director of Labor and Delivery Laura Riley, MD, said that flu shots protect babies in their early months and can be given in any trimester.

NFID’s “Leading by Example” initiative aims to raise vaccination rates in all sectors. No matter where you work you can join the effort by sending an email to jhession@alembichealth.com including:

  • the name of your organization;
  • your website; and
  • a primary contact’s name, email and phone number.