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CDC: Flu Vaccine Prevented 6.6 Million Infections in 2012-2013

Update Date: Dec 13, 2013 09:31 AM EST

The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people at least six-months-old should get vaccinated against the flu. Despite this recommendation, the vaccination rates are not as high as the agency would like. Due to this fact, the CDC and state governments have worked hard in increasing the vaccination rate by creating better vaccines, making them more accessible and educating the public about the benefits of the vaccine. In a new report, the CDC announced that in last year's flu season from 2012 to 2013, the vaccine prevented 6.6 million infections.

"In the 2012-2013 flu season, vaccinations prevented at least 6.6 million cases of flu-associated illness. They also prevented some 3.2 million [people from] seeing their doctor and 79,000 hospitalizations," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said reported by WebMD. The report found that the vaccine protected at risk people, who are seniors over 65 and children under five.

According to Frieden, last year's flu season was particularly severe. A CDC report found that roughly 31.8 million illnesses were tied to the flu with around 14.4 million doctor appointments for the flu as well. Even though those numbers were relatively high, Frieden stated that so far, only 40 percent of people have been vaccinated for this year's flu season. Although officials cannot predict the severity of this year's season, Frieden stressed the importance of being vaccinated as a preventative measure.

"We know that it will increase in the coming weeks and months, but we cannot predict where and when and how severe this year's flu season will be," Frieden stated. "What we can predict is that the best way you can protect yourself against flu is to get a flu vaccine. It's not too late to get vaccinated."

When the researchers compared the vaccination rates from this season and last year's, they found that the numbers were almost the same. The percentage of pregnant women who got vaccinated and the vaccination rate for health care providers were around 41 percent and 63 percent respectively in both seasons. The officials stated that if the vaccination rate could be increased to 70 percent, an estimated 4.4. million cases and 30,000 hospitalizations could be avoided.

"This year we're lucky because the flu season hasn't taken off wildly yet, so it's not too late to get vaccinated and make sure you protect yourself and your family," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, according to CBS News.

The report was published in the Dec 13. Issues of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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