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Press Release
NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
Office of Communications
CONTACT: Edward Skyler /
Jordan Barowitz - (212) 788-2958
Sandra Mullin (DOHMH) (212) 788-5290
Friday, October 25, 2002


Mayor Receives Flu Shot on Weekly Radio Show;
City Pushing for Increased Immunization Rates Among Communities of Color

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg received a flu shot on his weekly radio show with John Gambling on WABC to remind all New Yorkers over the age of 50 and those with underlying medical conditions to get vaccinated against the flu early in the season. Joining the Mayor this morning were Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, and a nurse from the Visiting Nurse Service (VNS), the organization that collaborates with City agencies to vaccinate City residents who frequent senior centers each fall.

"While most people who get the flu are only sick for a few days, the flu is one of the leading causes of death in New York City," said Mayor Bloomberg. "According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year more than 21,300 Americans died from the flu. All New Yorkers over the age of 50 and those who have underlying medical conditions should take the time to make an appointment with their doctors and get a flu shot. For those without health insurance or a doctor, the City has gone to great lengths to make the flu vaccine available through our clinics and senior centers citywide."

Dr. Frieden said, "Flu shots greatly reduce the risk of dying from the flu, and studies have shown that communities of color – particularly African-Americans – have lower rates of influenza vaccination compared to the citywide average. In 2001, 63% of persons 65 years of age or older reported getting a flu shot, but among African Americans the rate was significantly lower – only 52%. As a result, this year we are actively reaching out to communities of color in an effort to increase vaccination rates."

The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has partnered with community-based organizations, medical providers, and faith-based organizations to increase flu vaccination rates in communities of color. Additionally, next month Dr. Frieden will preside over a breakfast forum with community leaders from Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Bushwick on the topic of improving vaccination rates in African-American communities.

VNS President and CEO Carol Raphael said, "Each year the Visiting Nurse Service works hand-in-hand with the City to ensure that those at greatest risk receive the flu vaccine early in the flu season. Together, we can make a difference in reducing the number of serious, potentially deadly complications that occur from flu."

DOHMH offers free immunizations to New Yorkers at walk-in clinics throughout the City, and at senior centers citywide in cooperation with the Department for the Aging and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. The Health and Hospital Corporations is currently offering flu shots at their hospitals and Communicare clinic sites as well. For information on where to get a flu shot, New Yorkers can call the City's Flu Information Line (1-866-FLU-LINE), or visit

Some individuals should NOT receive a flu shot such as those who have severe allergies to eggs, or anyone who has had a serious, life-threatening reaction to a flu vaccination in the past. The flu shot is recommended for all individuals aged 50 or older. Other groups who should get the flu shot include:

  • Individuals between 6 months and 50 years of age with:
    • Heart, circulatory, lung (including asthma), or kidney problems (including renal failure)
    • Diabetes or other metabolic disease,
    • Cystic fibrosis or hemoglobin abnormalities;
  • People with lowered resistance to infection due to corticosteroids, cancer treatment, or immune system disease (including HIV);
  • Nursing home and chronic care facility residents;
  • Pregnant women in the second or third trimester;
  • Children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years who are on long-term aspirin therapy; and
  • Children between the ages of 6-23 months when feasible, as they are at increased risk of influenza-related hospitalizations.

Because persons at high risk for the flu are also generally at high risk for contracting pneumonia, DOHMH recommends that all people over the age of 65, and those with underlying medical conditions, get the pnuemococcal (pneumonia) vaccine as well. New Yorkers should ask their doctors for the pneumococcal vaccine when getting their flu shots, and the pneumococcal vaccine is available at City clinics and senior centers which offer flu vaccinations. Unlike the flu shot, the pneumococcal vaccine generally provides long-term protection, and does not need to be administered annually.

For each year's flu season, a new flu shot is needed because flu viruses can rapidly change and new strains may emerge as they circulate among the world's populations, and new ones develop sometimes making the previous year's vaccine obsolete. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies the strains of the flu virus most likely to be present in the United States each year.