November 21, 2013 – The Health Department announced new efforts today to encourage New Yorkers to get their influenza vaccination before peak influenza season hits in January. Influenza is a respiratory infection that, together with pneumonia, is the third leading cause of death in New York City, killing more than 2,000 people a year. The Health Department launched a new ad campaign reminding New Yorkers that influenza germs are everywhere and that vaccination is the best protection against the infection. The four new ads will run in subway cars through February. In addition, the Health Department kicked off a pilot program at 15 public elementary schools that will allow children to get vaccinated at no out-of-pocket cost.
Influenza season in New York City typically starts in the winter months, peaking in January through March. However, influenza virus circulates all year long. Getting vaccinated before influenza transmission peaks is the best way to prevent infection from the virus.
“Getting an annual influenza vaccine is the best protection against this highly contagious infection,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “It’s especially important for children to get vaccinated, because it protects their health and reduces the overall spread of the virus. The influenza vaccine is available at many locations across the City, making it easier than ever to protect yourself and your loved ones this season.”
During the 2012-13 influenza season, 167 children in the United States died from influenza-related complications, including four children in New York City. To further encourage influenza vaccination in children, the Health Department and the Department of Education are implementing a school-based vaccination program for students at 15 public elementary schools throughout the five boroughs. The vaccinations will take place during school hours between Dec. 9 and Dec. 20. Parents and guardians of students at participating schools can register their children for vaccination online through Nov. 29. The Health Department and DOE plan to expand this program to additional schools in the 2014-15 school year.
“With flu season upon us, it is vital to get our children vaccinated to protect them from the flu,” said Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott. “We want to make sure they stay healthy during the winter months so they can attend school every day.”
Offering influenza vaccine in schools has been effective in prior years in ensuring that children get vaccinated. For example, during the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009-2010, the Health Department vaccinated approximately 100,000 children across the City. More than one-third of the children who were vaccinated as part of this school-based program had never received an influenza vaccine before, demonstrating the program’s success of reaching children who likely would not have otherwise been vaccinated.
The influenza vaccine is safe for all, including children and pregnant women. Vaccinating children protects them and helps prevent them from spreading influenza to others at risk of severe illness and complications. At the end of the last influenza season, 65% of children aged 6 through 59 months, 47% of children 5 through 8 years of age, and 31% of children 9 through 18 years of age had received an influenza vaccine – demonstrating the large number of children who were unprotected last year and the urgent need to increase pediatric vaccination coverage.
Pregnant women have an increased risk of becoming ill and having complications from influenza. Influenza can also increase a pregnant woman’s chances of premature labor and delivery. Infants, who have the highest hospitalization rates from influenza, cannot get an influenza shot before 6 months of age. Vaccinating a mother while she is pregnant not only protects her, but also protects her newborn infant from influenza until he or she is old enough to get vaccinated.
For the first time, New Yorkers can find a nearby vaccine location by texting “flu” to 877877. Information is also available by calling 311 or using the Site Locator on nyc.gov. Influenza vaccines are available at Health Department immunization clinics, and the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) offers free or low-cost vaccination at all of its hospitals and community health centers.
For more information, including a Health Bulletin on influenza, visit nyc.gov.