The Pennsylvania Department of Aging is reminding people that there's still time to receive their annual flu shot to ward off illness. During last year's flu season, about 20,000 influenza cases were reported to the state Department of Health. Twenty-one percent of those who became ill were 65 or older.
Juanita Pless is the PrimeTime Health state coordinator for the Department of Aging. PrimeTime Health coordinates funding from the department to operate flu clinics. She said that even though the flu shot ad campaign has ended, the message has not.
"People will think, 'Well, you hear about flu shots September and October and November.' And if you miss getting your flu shot at that point you think, 'Well, it's too late,'" Pless said. "Well it isn't too late, and the flu peaks in January and February. So we want people to know that if they didn't get their flu shot at this point, that it's not too late, and they should."
Health Department officials recommend immunization for children six months to 59 months, and adults 50 years of age and older, residents of long-term care facilities, for people ages two to 49 who have chronic health conditions, pregnant women, health care workers who are in direct contact with patients, and caregivers of children under six months old.
Pless said that the flu is highly contagious and can pose life-threatening risks to the elderly and young children. About 90 percent of flu-related deaths and more than 50 percent of flu-related hospitalizations involve people 65 and older.
She said that it's easy for people to find flu shot clinics. "There is a Flu Locator on the Department of Health's website. We partner with them by having PrimeTime Health coordinators submit flu shot locations to us if they have a clinic," said Pless.
The Department of Health's Flu Vaccine Locator directs Pennsylvania residents to nearby clinics and pharmacies where they can receive shots. Vaccines take two weeks to become effective.