Flu Season

The flu season is here once again and that means it's time to get those shots. Doctors' offices are not expecting any shortages of the vaccinations this year. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports

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Health officials push the vaccinations, especially for children and seniors, because of the potential complications that getting the flu poses. Doctor Bonnie Word is Chief of Infectious Diseases and Travel Medicine at Texas Children's Hospital. She says 75 million doses of flu vaccinations are being shipped to doctors' offices this month. Total production is expected to top 100 million. She says one reason for the increase is that the number of children recommended for flu vaccinations has increased. The previous recommendation was for children between six months and two years of age.

"Now that has been extended to children six months up to five years of age. So that's another group of, large number of individuals. And it also includes their household contacts."

Word says the recommendation didn't change because of increased hospitalizations but rather increased doctor office visits. She says every year the flu takes 36,000 lives.

"That is directly related to influenza and an additional 200,000 hospitalizations. Most of the deaths are occurring in individuals who are over 65 while the hospitalizations tend to occur in younger individuals. But the deaths are occurring in our older citizens."

The Centers for Disease Control is trying to reach out to minority groups.

"And this is primarily seniors over 65. If you look at them, about 67 percent of seniors who are white have received or report to have received their influenza vaccine. In contrast, only about 48, somewhere between 47 to 48 percent of blacks and Hispanics of the same range have received theirs...

Word says there may be several reasons for this disparity.

"One of the biggest reasons is some of them say the doctor never offered it to them. For seniors in general I think the big concern is always can they pay for it? And one of the things people should know if that Medicare will cover the costs for vaccines."

About 100 million doses of vaccine are expected to be produced this flu season.

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