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PR- 455-09
October 14, 2009


Program will Mobilize Hundreds of Volunteers as a Component of City's Influenza Prevention Strategy

One of 40 Initiatives of NYC Service, the Mayor's Comprehensive Program to Increase Volunteer Service in NYC

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Dr. Thomas Farley and the City’s Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford today launched Flu Fighters, an NYC Service initiative to help combat the spread of influenza this season.  The program will mobilize hundreds of volunteers to conduct outreach at community events, schools, senior centers and houses of worship in New York City to raise awareness about influenza and the importance of getting vaccinated.  Flu Fighters is one of the 40 initiatives of NYC Service announced by Mayor Bloomberg in April and is a component of the City’s comprehensive influenza prevention plan outlined by the Mayor in early September. 

“Our biggest goal for NYC Service is to strategically and methodically direct volunteers to the areas of our city where they are needed the most – something that had never really been done before,” said Mayor Bloomberg.  “Flu Fighters will address a critical area – flu prevention – serving as a needed extension of City efforts to protect the public. The more New Yorkers we can get to take steps to protect themselves against the flu, the better chance we have of containing any outbreak.  If you want to make a real difference in this city and possibly save lives, then please sign up to be a Flu Fighter.”

“Our diligent work over the past six months has allowed us to create a comprehensive and strategic citywide response to reduce the health risks of both H1N1 and seasonal flu,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs.  “By enlisting the help of 800 flu fighters across the five boroughs, we’ll be able to make an even greater impact in raising public awareness about the importance of vaccination and the preventive ways to stop the spread of flu.”

“Influenza is unpredictable, and we want all New Yorkers to be up to date on the latest information about the virus.  Vaccination is the best defense against the flu, so we need to inform New Yorkers of where to go to get vaccinated,” said Commissioner Farley. “Flu Fighters will play a key role in delivering these important messages throughout the city.”

“Public health is one of the six impact areas we are channeling our volunteers, in this case to address the annual threat from the flu, which is even more relevant this year.  We are asking any New Yorker who can lend a hand to become a Flu Fighter,” said the City’s Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford.

The Flu Fighter program aims to engage 800 or more volunteers in the program.  Volunteers can start work on some opportunities right away. New Yorkers interested in helping prevent the spread of influenza this season by becoming a Flu Fighter should visit or call 311.

The volunteer Flu Fighters will work in four areas:

  • Community Outreach: Volunteers will be provided with posters and brochures on how to prevent the spread of influenza and the importance of vaccination, which they will distribute at places of work, places of worship, senior centers, pharmacies, local stores, and other community hubs.

  • Vaccination Pledge: Volunteers will pledge to take individuals they know to get vaccinated. Volunteers will receive information about high-risk groups and will be encouraged to bring friends or family members who wish to protect themselves and others from influenza and its complications.

  • VaccinationCenterAssistance: Volunteers will help distribute screening forms or manage the flow of people in and out of one of the weekend vaccination centers (also known as Points of Dispensing) that will take place across the city. Multi-lingual volunteers can assist those with limited English proficiency.

  • Parent Outreach: Volunteers will promote flu awareness at school events and ensure other parents are aware of the due date for consent forms for school-based vaccination.   

In addition to the Flu Fighter volunteer effort, the City has developed a protocol for selecting, deploying and tracking volunteers with professional medical experience through its Medical Reserve Corps, a volunteer network that includes 8,700 physicians, pharmacists, dentists, nurses, nurse practitioners, mental health providers and other credentialed health professionals. These health professionals will volunteer in hospitals, clinics and dispensing centers to expand treatment capacity. The City’s public and private hospitals are finalizing protocols for accepting the volunteers to work in their facilities.

Each year, more than 1,000 New Yorkers die from influenza and its complications, and many others become ill. While many parts of the country are now battling high rates of influenza infection, so far, there is no sign that the flu has taken hold in New York City.  Information about influenza should is also available at or by calling 311.

About NYC Service

NYC Service was launched by Mayor Bloomberg in April 2009 to meet his State of the City pledge for New York City to lead the nation in answering President Obama’s national call to service. The program has three core goals: channel the power of volunteers to address the impacts of the current economic downturn, make New York City the easiest city in America in which to serve, and ensure every young person in New York City is taught about civic engagement and has an opportunity to serve. NYC Service aims to drive volunteer resources to six impact areas where New York City’s needs are greatest: strengthening communities, helping neighbors in need, education, health, emergency preparedness and the environment. New Yorkers can find opportunities to serve their communities by visiting or by calling 311.

The City’s Influenza Prevention Strategy

In September, Mayor Bloomberg outlined the City’s comprehensive influenza prevention strategy, including offering free flu shots and nasal spray for H1N1 to elementary school students whose parents want them to receive it; encouraging New Yorkers to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting flu shots or nasal spray for H1N1 and seasonal flu; helping people with influenza-like illness manage their symptoms and find care; working with hospitals to ensure the availability of expanded emergency room capacity if it is needed; and designating primary-care clinics as “flu centers” that can give flu shots, information and outpatient care. The program was the result of the work performed by 15 interagency working groups that met throughout the summer.

The City has begun implementing the strategy outlined by the Mayor.  Hospitals and health care providers have already received initial doses of vaccine, and children and health care workers are starting to be vaccinated.   Last week, the Health Department and the Department of Education launched a vaccine distribution pilot program in six schools in preparation for this fall’s school-based H1N1 vaccination effort.

Additionally, the City is tracking rates of influenza-like illness and the different types of influenza viruses that are circulating; posting daily and weekly updates on the City’s new influenza web portal; providing a daily public report listing all schools reporting five or more cases of influenza like illness; and launching an influenza-prevention campaign that includes signs, posters and classroom instruction.

Vaccination Information

The seasonal flu vaccine is especially important for people in these groups. 

  • Children aged 6 months to 18 years.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Health care workers.
  • People aged 50 and older.
  • People with long-term health problems.
  • People in nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities.
  • Household members and caregivers of children under 5 – especially infants younger than 6 months. (Babies this age can get the flu, but are too young for a flu shot.)
  • People living with or caring for others who are over 50.
  • People living with or caring for others who have long-term health problems.

The seasonal influenza vaccine does not provide immunity against H1N1 infection. New Yorkers wanting protection will need to get a separate vaccine. Like the seasonal vaccine, the H1N1 vaccine is available by injection or nasal spray. Because certain people are at increased risk of complications from H1N1 influenza, vaccination is especially important for them. In addition to receiving a seasonal flu vaccination, the following people should receive the H1N1 vaccine:

  • Pregnant women.
  • People aged 6 months to 24 years.
  • People aged 25 to 64 years with long-term health problems.
  • People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months.
  • Health care and emergency medical workers.

Once demand for these high priority groups is met, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone from 25 through 64 years be vaccinated against H1N1. After this wave of vaccinations, those 65 years and older are encouraged to be vaccinated. More details are available at

The Health Department emphasizes that the best place for people to be vaccinated is at the office of their regular health care provider. In order to ensure that as many children as possible are vaccinated quickly, the City is also taking the extra steps of offering vaccines in elementary schools and in special weekend clinics. The city-wide, school-based vaccination program is planned to start in late October or early November and will last approximately eight weeks. Weekend clinics for middle-school and high-school children will open in early November at sites in all five boroughs and will continue for approximately five weeks. Parents of elementary school children will soon receive consent forms to sign and return if they want their children to be vaccinated at school.


Stu Loeser/Marc La Vorgna   (212) 788-2958

Jessica Scaperotti   (Health)
(212) 788-5290

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