Bracing for what’s typically the height of the flu season, HHC will make the H1N1 vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine readily available to all employees and patients during the early months of 2010.
Since September, HHC has administered more than 230,000 doses of seasonal flu vaccine and more than 76,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine. Among HHC staff, more than 70% have been vaccinated against the seasonal flu, way above the national average in recent years of about 35 percent for hospital staff. At the same time, the initially limited supply of H1N1 vaccine impeded staff vaccination efforts and thus far only slightly more than 10 percent of staff are vaccinated against H1N1. With an ample vaccine supply now on hand, vaccine is being offered to all staff.
“The vaccination rate for seasonal flu among our employees is very impressive, and now we want to make the vaccination rate for H1N1 flu just as impressive. Vaccination is the best way to protect our patients, our loved ones and ourselves against the flu,” said Dr. Ross Wilson, HHC Deputy Chief Medical Officer.
Now that millions of people nationwide have been vaccinated against H1N1, fears about the efficacy of the vaccine have subsided. Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, wrote this month that the H1N1 flu vaccination program “has met high safety expectations” and the public should get vaccinated – especially those in high-risk groups – because although the flu appears to be waning, it could come back.
New York City is experiencing low levels of people sick with the flu compared to May and June of last year. But most of the people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms are likely suffering from H1N1, according to epidemiologists.
This month the city is seeing about 60 people a week admitted to the hospital with influenza-like illness, according to city health statistics. Last May, there were more than 200 people a week admitted.
At HHC, employees and patients are being encouraged to get the H1N1 vaccine and the seasonal vaccine if they did not get it last fall. Children and young adults up to age 24, people with chronic health conditions, and pregnant women are those considered to be at high risk for the H1N1 flu.
Other steps you can take to protect yourself and others from the flu are:
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Don’t get close to people who are sick.
- If you get the flu, stay home until your fever is gone.