CDC pushes for increase in vaccination rate against influenza

In observance of National Influenza Vaccination Week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on Thursday that highlighted the benefits of getting vaccinated against the influenza virus.

The CDC estimated that flu vaccinations prevented 6.6 million flu-related illnesses, 3.2 million medically attended illnesses and 79,000 flu-associated hospitalizations during the 2012-2013 flu season. The report, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, estimates that the benefits of getting vaccinated against the flu this season will be higher than they were last year.

The CDC estimates that 40 percent of Americans six months of age and older have been vaccinated against influenza since early November. Health professionals are asking anyone that has not been vaccinated to do so immediately, before the peak of the season.

"We are happy that annual flu vaccination is becoming a habit for many people, but there is still much room for improvement," The CDC's Anne Schuchat said. "The bottom-line is that influenza can cause a tremendous amount of illness and can be severe. Even when our flu vaccines are not as effective as we want them to be, they can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits, and flu-related hospitalizations and deaths."

The most vulnerable populations to influenza include children between six months of age and four years of age and persons older than 65 years of age. Health professionals are recommending everyone get vaccinated against influenza, especially if they belong to a vulnerable group.

"The estimated number of hospitalizations reinforces what we have always known about flu: that it is highly variable and can be very serious," CDC Director Tom Frieden said.