The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has designated this week (Dec. 6-12) asNational Influenza Vaccination Week to highlight the importance of ongoing efforts to vaccinate against influenza (flu) and to foster even greater efforts going forward. This year, National Influenza Vaccination Week serves as an important reminder to seek out the H1N1 vaccine. Although H1N1 activity has dropped steadily over the last few weeks, experts warn that people shouldcontinue to pursue the vaccine. Failure to do so could be “disastrous” if the number of cases surge again when students return to school after the holiday break, said Michael T. Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, in a recent Washington Post article.
According to the CDC, about 70 million doses of vaccine are now available, and supply will be increasing in coming weeks, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, said in a conference call with reporters. Fewer infections, coupled with additional doses of the H1N1 vaccine offers a “window of opportunity” to vaccinate more people, improve immunity and head off the possibility of a new wave of infections.
“We’re far from out of the woods, but we have an opportunity to get more people protected in case there’s another surge or wave in future months,” said Frieden.
As National Influenza Vaccination Week winds down, do your part. Take the time to find a flu clinic near you and get vaccinated. You can find out more about the safety and effectiveness of the H1N1 vaccine here. In addition, following simple tips, such as washing your hands and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, will help reduce your risk of contracting H1N1, prevent the spread of germs and potentially minimize the impact of a “third wave” of H1N1 as we head into peak flu season.
(Chris J. Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., is president and CEO of the Caring for Colorado Foundation. He is also chair of the Water Quality & Health Council)