By Zayda Rivera
The winter season is in full effect, which means breaking out the cold weather gear. But along with those gloves, scarves, hats, boots, and coats, comes another accessory – – the flu. This year, for the first time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that all Americans older than six months should get vaccination against the flu. This message is especially important for Hispanics, according to a recent report by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH).
Fighting Flu Fatigue reports that H1N1 flu hospitalization rates for Hispanics, African-Americans, and American Indian/Alaska Natives were nearly two to one higher than rates for Whites during the 2009-2010 flu season. At the same time, both H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccination rates were lower for Hispanics and African Americans than for Whites.
The good news is that the flu is preventable with a vaccine – yet, each year, between 3,000 and 49,000 Americans die from flu-related illnesses (based on a review of deaths from 1976 to 2007) and the flu contributes to more than $10 billion in lost productivity and direct medical expenses and $16 billion in lost potential earnings each year in the United States.
So to further combat the flu, increase vaccination rates and build on the momentum from the H1N1 response, Fighting Flu Fatigue recommends creating a major campaign that provides:
- Education about the need for flu shots, focused on why everyone should get immunized and the safety of the shots;
- Increased easy access to flu shots, even to people who are uninsured or do not receive regular medical care; and
- Incentives for health care workers to be vaccinated. Last season, only 62 percent of health care workers were vaccinated against the seasonal flu and only 37 percent received an H1N1 flu shot by January 2010.
The report was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is available on TFAH’s website at www.healthyamericans.org.
Fight the flu, get vaccinated.