Health

Iowa flu vaccine rate still causes public health concern

State beats national average, but still lowest in years

Although many might balk at getting a flu shot, getting it sooner may prevent serious illness, hospitalization or death. (Tero Vesalainen/Dreamstime/TNS)
Although many might balk at getting a flu shot, getting it sooner may prevent serious illness, hospitalization or death. (Tero Vesalainen/Dreamstime/TNS)

Influenza vaccination rates in Iowa beat out the national average during the past flu season. But state public health officials say that’s not enough to ensure Iowans stay healthy this winter.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 43 percent of adults in Iowa received an influenza vaccine during the 2017-18 flu season, six percent higher than the national average.

But that’s a drop from past flu vaccine rates among adults in Iowa, data shows. The previous season recorded a 49 percent coverage among Iowans, the CDC said.

The flu vaccine is an individual’s best defense against becoming seriously ill because of the flu, public health officials say, and individuals are encouraged to get their shot soon if they have not already done so.

In a letter released Friday to health care providers across the state, Iowa Department of Public Health Medical Director and State Epidemiologist Caitlin Pedati asked medical professionals to encourage their patients to receive a vaccine.

A seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for everyone aged six months and older. Individuals who are very young, very old or pregnant or whose immune systems are compromised are most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill.

“It is crucial that we vaccinate not only these populations, but also those who interact with them in health and other primary care settings,” Pedati wrote.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

There was a 37 percent flu vaccination coverage among adults in the United States in the 2017-18 season, according to the CDC.

Here is a nationwide breakdown of vaccination coverage by age group in this past flu season:

• 18-49 years — 26.9 percent

• 50-64 years — 39.7 percent

• 65 years and older — 59.6 percent.

In addition, there was an overall 57.9 percent coverage rate among children in the United States.

• 6 months to 4 years — 67.8 percent

• 5-12 years — 59.5 percent

• 13-17 years — 47.4 percent.

Nationwide, the CDC estimates 172 individuals younger than 18 died due to flu-related illnesses during the past year, one of the highest rates of flu-related deaths among children in a single flu season in years.

Approximately 80 percent of these deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination, the CDC stated.

“Unfortunately, many misperceptions about the vaccine continue to persist, including the incorrect belief by over half of U.S. parents that a child can get the flu from a flu shot,” Pedati wrote in her letter to providers.

The CDC also estimates during this past flu season:

• 79,400 Americans died due to influenza

• 959,000 were hospitalized

• 48.8 were sickened.

The Iowa Department of Public health reports that:

• 217 Iowans died during the past season due to flu-related illnesses

• 1,890 were hospitalized.

In the latest report from the state public health department, the flu virus is currently “sporadic” across Iowa, meaning only a small number of cases have been confirmed by a laboratory.

So far this season, which began Sept. 30, there were 38 influenza-associated hospitalizations as of Dec. 1.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

Trends in data from past seasons suggests Iowa should begin to see an uptick in hospitalizations in January and February.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.