State Health Commissioner Leads by Example in Getting Flu Shot

All New Yorkers Urged To Get Vaccinated As Soon As Possible

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 25, 2011) – New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., visited the Whitney M. Young Jr. Albany Health Center today to demonstrate how easy it is to protect yourself against the flu. As he received his annual flu shot, Dr. Shah urged all New Yorkers to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

"About five minutes is all it takes to protect yourself from a dangerous virus," Commissioner Shah said. "Flu vaccinations are available at a variety of locations, including health centers, physician offices, and many local pharmacies, and are often covered by insurance plans. There's simply no reason not to be vaccinated."

Over the past 50 years, the flu vaccine has proven to be safe. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) work with state and local health departments and health care providers to monitor the safety of the vaccine and ensure it meets the highest safety standards.

Flu season typically runs from October through May. To date, there have been fewer than 20 reported cases in New York. During the 2010-11 flu season, there were more than 4,200 flu-associated hospitalizations in the State and seven pediatric deaths. Over the past four years, 50 children in New York have died from the flu.

Dr. Shah noted that the State Health Department and CDC recommend that anyone six months of age or older receive a flu vaccination. Children under six months of age are also at risk from flu, but cannot receive a flu vaccination. The best protection for these young children is to ensure all family members and caregivers are up-to-date with flu vaccinations.

The flu vaccine stimulates the body's immune system to protect the body from the flu virus. This year's vaccine includes the three most common seasonal flu viruses, including H1N1.

Most people who contract the flu will likely recover without complications, but individuals under two years of age or older than 50, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions are at greater risk for serious illness or flu-related complications.

The State Health Department is also recommending that all health care workers get vaccinated to protect themselves from the influenza virus, and also avoid putting patients and their families at risk.

Individuals who lack health insurance or do not have access to the vaccine are advised to contact their local health department. Many counties hold free flu vaccination clinics that are open to local residents.

For additional information, visit the State Department of Health web site at: