The Best Time to Get Vaccinated Against the Flu is Now

State Health Commissioner Shah Gets His Flu Shot and Urges All New Yorkers to Protect Themselves with a Safe, Simple Flu Vaccination

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 25, 2012) - New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., reminded people that the start of the fall season coincides with the start of flu season, and all New Yorkers should get vaccinated to protect themselves against the flu.

Dr. Shah received a flu shot this morning, at the Department of Health's Wadsworth Center Laboratory in Albany, where health professionals conduct tests to confirm cases of influenza (flu) in New York State and develop strategies to protect public health.

"A flu vaccination is a safe and effective way for people to protect themselves against the influenza virus, which may cause severe illness or even death," Commissioner Shah said. "It is important that people take the time to visit their doctor's office, a local health center or pharmacy to get vaccinated to help ensure that flu will not imperil their health."

Key federal health organizations, including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have determined the strains of influenza that are most likely to cause illness during flu season and are included in the vaccine. This year's vaccine will protect against two strains of influenza type A and one of type B.

Flu season generally runs from October through May. Last year was a relatively mild year for flu in New York State, yet there were still 1,167 flu-related hospitalizations and one pediatric death. Over the last four years, there have been a total of 34 pediatric flu deaths in New York State and an average of more than 4,400 flu-related hospitalizations a year.

Although most flu cases are mild and people will usually recover without complications, the flu poses a more serious risk for individuals younger than two-years-old or those over 50, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions.

The State Health Department recommends that all children six months of age or older receive a flu vaccination. Those under six months cannot get a flu vaccination. Since the flu virus can spread through coughing or sneezing, it is important that family members and people who regularly come in contact with young children or individuals at high risk get a flu shot. In addition, all health care workers should be vaccinated against influenza and other communicable disease to protect their health and the health of their patients.

Most health insurance plans cover flu vaccines. Individuals and families without health insurance should check with their county health department to determine if local clinics will be held to provide free vaccinations.

For additional information about influenza, including how it is monitored in New York State, visit the Department of Health web page at: