Feds push flu shots; data shows Mich. lags

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Correction: This story has been updated to indicate that Patricia A. Stinchfield said 105 U.S. children died of influenza last year.

Federal health officials Thursday urged Americans to get vaccinated before flu season starts in October, and released data showing fewer Michigan residents got flu shots last year than the national average.

About 46.8 percent of Americans six months or older got flu shots during the 2016-2017 flu season, compared to 44.2 percent in Michigan, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Among children, ages 6 months to 17 years old, 59 percent were vaccinated nationally compared to 55.7 percent in Michigan.

At a press event Thursday in Washington, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Thomas E. Price got one of the shots that protects against the contagious respiratory virus that comes with coughs, sneezing, fever, body aches and fatigue.

“It can be a lot worse than just a few days away from home or work,” Price said. “Even young and healthy adults can suffer severe complications from influenza.”

Angela Minicuci, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said state health officials have already noticed flu activity in the state.

“This is the time of year when we expect to see flu begin circulating in our communities,” Minicuci said. “ Getting a flu shot is the single best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting the flu so we recommend everyone 6 months of age and older get their flu shot as soon as possible so they can be protected for the full flu season.”

Fewer people died during the 2016-2017 season compared with the previous year, but the hospitalization rate nearly doubled from the previous year, according to the CDC.

Young children and adults 65 and older are most likely to become seriously sick with the flu, but health providers say everyone six months and older should get the vaccine — and note that people who aren’t vaccinated put everyone at risk.

Price was joined by Patricia A. Stinchfield, a pediatric nurse and director of infection prevention and control at Children’s Minnesota, a pediatric health system, who said 105 U.S. children died of influenza last year.

Stinchfield noted that vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by half among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions, and by nearly two-thirds among healthy children, in a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics.

“As a pediatric nurse practitioner I often hear parents say ‘Oh, it’s just the flu,” Stintchfield said. “The words ‘just’ and ‘flu’ should not be in the same sentence.”