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Health authorities say nearly everyone should get flu shot

| Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010

WASHINGTON -- What a difference a year makes: Crowds lined up for hours for scarce shots during last fall's swine flu pandemic, when infections peaked well before enough vaccine could be produced. This year, a record vaccine supply is expected -- an all-in-one inoculation that now promises protection against that swine flu strain plus two other kinds of influenza.

Shipments began so early that drug stores are offering vaccinations amid their back-to-school sales.

Health authorities are urging nearly everyone to get vaccinated. There is even a new high-dose version for people 65 or older.

But without last year's scare factor, the question is how many people will heed the new policy for near-universal vaccination. No more stopping to check if you're on a high-risk list: A yearly dose is recommended for virtually everyone except babies younger than 6 months -- the shot isn't approved for tots that young -- and people with severe allergies to the eggs used to brew it.

"Influenza is serious, and anyone, including healthy people, can get the flu and spread the flu," said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Flu vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and those around you."

The CDC was moving toward the universal vaccination policy even before last year's pandemic brought home an inescapable fact: The flu virus doesn't just kill grandparents and babies and people with weak lungs or hearts, although they're particularly vulnerable. It can kill healthy pregnant women and 30-somethings. And 5-year-olds.

"We were discussing how we were going to go get his Star Wars Halloween costume after he got out of the hospital ... and all of a sudden his eyes lost their focus," said Serese Marotta of Dayton, Ohio, describing how her son Joseph, 5, died of swine flu in October before vaccines were available in her community. She urged families to make vaccination a priority.

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