On February 24, 2010, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted in favor of an expanded recommendation for vaccination during the 2010-2011 influenza season. APIC is a panel of immunization experts that advise CDC on immunization and vaccination issues. The vote took place in light of recommendations in years past and the lessons learned recently during the first influenza pandemic in four decades.
The expanded recommendation for annual influenza vaccination is to include all individuals aged 6 months and older. Goals of the new recommendation include removing barriers to influenza immunization and emphasizing the importance of preventing influenza across the entire population. Previously, ACIP recommendations have focused on vaccination of higher risk individuals, children 6 months through 18 years of age and close contacts of higher risk individuals.
The panel focused on the value of protecting all individuals 19 to 49 years of age, who have been hit hard by the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus. It is likely that this particular virus will continue circulating into the next influenza season and beyond. The panel recognized the practical advantage of issuing a single, simple and clear message regarding the importance of influenza vaccination. There are hopes that this simple message will remove obstacles to vaccination and expand the number of individuals protected.
Additionally, data collected over the course of the current 2009 H1N1 pandemic indicates that some individuals do not currently have a specific recommendation for vaccination and may be at a higher risk of serious flu-related complications. Included in this group are those individuals who are obese, as well as post-partum women and individuals belonging to certain racial/ethnic groups.
An annual influenza vaccination is safe and is a preventive measure that can benefit all age groups. While more doses of vaccine will be needed to meet the new recommendations, the panel does not believe this will be an issue. Current projections indicate that there will be more licensed types and brands of seasonal influenza vaccine. Check with your primary care provider, local health department or your pharmacist for availability.