Don’t feel left out: Feds say “Flu shots for all.”

Now everybody has an equal chance of getting a flu shot every year.

The “shot czars” on the Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices have called for equal access for everyone seeking the protective inoculation.

The panel of immunization experts voted to expand the recommendation for annual influenza vaccination to include all people aged 6 months and older, a move meant to remove real and perceived barriers to getting the flu shots.

Syringe in handIn the past, the same panel had ruled that seasonal influenza vaccination would only be given to higher-risk persons; children 6 months through 18 years of age; and those caregivers, teachers, healthcare workers and others in close contact with higher-risk populations.

They say their action “signals the importance of preventing influenza across the entire population.”  While that may be true, the action may also end (or at least diminish) widespread confusion among the public–and staff at doc-in-a-boxes, pharmacies, public health departments and other sites that actually administer the vaccine.

Early in the flu season, I was in a grocery store and came upon a traffic jam of shopping carts. In the center was a woman holding the hand of a young child on one side and her (I assume) elderly mother on the other. She was arguing with a pharmacist, saying that both of her charges were entitled to flu shots.  Some in the crowd booed as the white-coated would-be shot-giver waved a piece of paper she said was “the official list” and scooted back behind the pharmacy counter.

Inoculations being sold with the milk, eggs and frozen pizza?  That’s probably worth another story.

But back to CDC in Atlanta.

Of greater medical significance is that the panel admitted that there were also clinical reasons for changing who should get the shots. They said that information gathered during the frightening early days of last year’s H1N1 pandemic showed that some people who did not fall in the must-have list for vaccination may also be at higher risk of serious flu-related complications. This included those people who are obese, postpartum women and people in certain racial and ethnic groups.

One last bit of info. The  Food and Drug Administration recommended that the concoction blend for protection against the 2009 H1N1 virus be added to the seasonal influenza vaccine.

The one-shot mixture will handle all the known flu strains and will become available in time for next Fall’s flu season. Don’t let on to the kids yet, but younger children who have never had a seasonal vaccine will still need two doses.

–Andrew Schneider

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