BISMARCK — North Dakota has reported more flu cases this season alone compared to all of last flu season, and officials are seeing a significant drop in the number of people getting flu shots, especially those ages 6 months to 17 years.
Last week alone, North Dakota reported 300 additional flu cases, which is more than the 245 cases the state reported during the entire 2020-21 flu season, according to the North Dakota Department of Health. The US had an unusually mild flu season last year as many people vigilantly took precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing masks and social distancing, which also curbed flu transmission.
A typical flu season ranges between October and May each year, and officials say the optimal time to get vaccinated is the end of October, but it’s not too late to get the shot.
Compared to last year, the number of flu doses given this flu season in North Dakota is slightly lower for all age groups, but none have fallen as significantly as the number of doses given to the state’s children ages 6 months to 17. year.
Only about 28% of North Dakotans aged 6 months to 17 years have received the flu shot so far this year, said Jennifer Galbraith, a vaccine manager at the Department of Health. The national flu vaccination rate for children in this age group is over 43% as of Dec. 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
North Dakota has administered about 15,000 fewer flu doses to children ages 6 months to 17 this year compared to the previous flu season, Galbraith said. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why pediatric flu vaccination rates are significantly lower than other age groups, she said, but the Department of Health theorizes that parents may be too busy to get their child vaccinated and that the reluctance of the vaccine COVID-19 vaccine could complement restraint. for the flu shot.
“We have, I think, an idea in our head that the flu is only mild,” Galbraith said. “You’re out of school for a few days and then go back, but healthy children have died of flu in recent years in the United States. So getting vaccinated can help prevent you from ending up in the hospital or dying.”
The Department of Health is working to make the flu shot more readily available to children, such as opening pop-up clinics in schools and after-school activities, Galbraith said. The department also encourages health care providers to educate their patients about the importance of the flu shot.
“If you haven’t vaccinated your child or if you haven’t had them vaccinated yet, please go in and consider getting vaccinated, and if you have any questions, talk to your trusted health care provider,” she said. .
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