Whether the motivation is the Ebola outbreak or President Barack Obama’s recent reminder, more people are getting flu shots this year. Nearly 2 million more influenza vaccine doses have been distributed so far in 2014 compared with this time last year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 112.3 million doses of the flu vaccine had been distributed as of Oct. 10, the most recent data available through the CDC. Only 110.5 million doses had been given by Oct. 18, 2013. The majority of vaccines for the infectious disease were administered by the end of October, and the CDC expects the same this year.
Flu shot popularity is on a general decline. By mid-October 2010, 139 million doses had been given. The numbers go down from there: In 2011, only 115.5 million had been distributed by that time; in 2012, 114.6 million. But this year’s recent uptick may indicate the 2014-2015 season is bucking the trend.
Manufacturers predicted 151 million to 156 million doses would be available this year, according to the CDC website. It’s recommended everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu shot as soon as possible. Anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent of people get the flu each year, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized each year with related conditions. There are roughly 500,000 flu-related deaths worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization.
The flu season will likely peak around January or February. With the public’s attention on Ebola, people may be more concerned about their health. Early symptoms of flu and Ebola, like fever, fatigue and vomiting, are similar. However, medical experts continue to emphasize in the U.S., getting — and dying from — the flu is much more likely than contracting Ebola. Obama joined the push in a press conference last week.
“We’re going into flu season, which means, by the way, that people should be looking to get their flu shots,” he said. “We know that every year tens of thousands of people potentially die of the flu, and 100,000 or more may be actually going to the emergency room and hospitalized because of the flu.”
In September, production issues delayed shipment of some manufacturers’ vaccines. But representatives from Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy, two drug store chains that administer the shot, said this week that they were not experiencing shortages.