The prevalence of novel influenza A (H1N1) has dictated some new twists for National Influenza Vaccination Week(www.cdc.gov).
The CDC and HHS launched the annual event during the 2006-07 flu season, with the goal of getting people vaccinated against the seasonal flu throughout January and beyond.
For the 2009-10 season, the event -- which typically begins in late November or early December -- was pushed back until there was ample supply of H1N1 vaccine, Jenny Backus, HHS acting assistant secretary for public affairs, said during the call.
Sheedy said public and media interest in flu vaccination typically wanes after Thanksgiving, and the weeklong event is intended to remind patients and physicians that flu continues to circulate into the spring, and it isn't too late to be vaccinated.
"This is an important opportunity to increase uptake in the New Year," she said.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during the Dec. 23 call that Americans need to be reminded that H1N1 infection is a serious illness that affects people not typically affected by the seasonal flu, and she reiterated that the new H1N1 vaccine has proven to be safe and effective.
AAFP is one of more than 30 health organizations that recently signed a letter urging Americans to be vaccinated against the novel virus.
"It's critical that Americans continue to hear from organizations that they trust that this is a safe and effective vaccine and is the best way to protect themselves and their families," Sebelius said.
As of Dec. 26, 130.4 million doses of H1N1 vaccine had been made available. Meanwhile, only four states -- Delaware, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia -- were reporting widespread influenza activity.
Although diminishing flu activity might convince some that vaccination is unnecessary, the percentage of visits to doctors' offices for flu-like illness actually increased to 3.2 percent for the week ending Dec. 26, marking the first increase after two months of declines.
"We have a window of opportunity to get out ahead of a possible third wave and stop the further spread of the flu," Sebelius said.
After National Influenza Vaccination Week begins Jan. 10, each subsequent day of the event has its own theme, and downloadable materials for each day are available online(www.cdc.gov).
- Monday, Jan. 11 -- The focus will be on the general public and health care workers. Backus said staff from the CDC, HHS and the White House will be involved in satellite media tours during morning and evening news programs promoting vaccination efforts.
- Tuesday, Jan. 12 -- The focus will be on people with chronic diseases and other underlying health conditions, who are at increased risk from influenza.
- Wednesday, Jan. 13 -- The focus will be on children, families and pregnant women. HHS also plans a webcast that day.
- Thursday, Jan. 14 -- The focus will be on young adults.
- Friday, Jan. 15 -- The focus will be on seniors.
The CDC's National Influenza Vaccination Week Web site also offers resources for physicians(www.cdc.gov), a schedule of state and local events(www.cdc.gov), and a link where organizations can add their own events(www.cdc.gov) to the schedule.
"We want to offer ourselves as a tool to amplify your efforts," Backus said.
NCIRD Director Anne Schuchat, M.D., said Dec. 23 that the agency estimates that 60 million Americans have been immunized against H1N1. However, children ages 6 months to 9 years are recommended to receive two doses.
Schuchat said no more than 2 million children have received both of the recommended doses.
"There's a lot of work to do over the weeks ahead," she said.
Schuchat said that with increasing volume, more H1N1 vaccine now is available in more locations, including doctors' offices, health departments, retail pharmacies and various vaccination clinics.
Schuchat said many people have waited to get the vaccine because of their concerns about safety, but she said there have been "no red flags with safety."
Sebelius, meanwhile, said others have waited patiently because they were not in one of the high-risk groups that initially were prioritized for vaccination. She said physicians should inform patients who are not in priority groups that they no longer need to wait to be immunized against H1N1.
HHS has partnered with the Ad Council on a series of public service announcements(www.flu.gov) that are available for download and already are running on television stations across the country. More than 100 members of Congress and more than a dozen governors have participated in PSAs that will air in their respective home states.
In addition, a photograph of President Obama being vaccinated is being used in print ads and is being made available to HHS partner organizations for vaccination promotions. Backus said HHS also will promote vaccination with advertisements during college football bowl games, professional football playoff games and other sporting events.