Written by James Warden
When it comes to flu shots, the majority of Illinois residents are not heading experts advice and getting their vaccinations.
The state ranked 36th among all U.S. states in the percentage of people ages 6 months and older who got vaccinated during the 2012-13 flu season, according to analyzes released Tuesday by Trust for America's Health, a nonpartisan health policy organization.
The analysis, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention FluVaxView data set, found that 43.1 percent of Illinois residents were vaccinated in 2012-13, the most recent year available for the CDC data.
Only 12 states in the United States had vaccination rates above 50 percent. Vaccination rates were highest in Massachusetts, which had a 57.5 percent rate, and lowest in Florida at 34.1 percent.
"It's easy to become complacent about the flu. We're used to it, it happens every year. So much so that we forget that it is largely preventable through a quick shot—which I might add is now free to most Americans thanks to the Affordable Care Act," said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust For America’s Health, in a news release. "The flu isn't just an uncomfortable inconvenience, it is deadly and costly. And millions of Americans do not even have paid sick leave, so they either go to work sick—infecting others—or do not get paid."
Rates are lowest among adults ages 18 to 64 years. That group has a nationwide vaccination rate of 35.7 percent, compared to 56.6 percent for children ages 6 months to 17 years old and 66.2 percent of seniors age 65 and older.
Illinois ranked 34th for vaccinations for 18- to 64-year-olds with a rate of 34.6 percent.
"The trend of low vaccination rates among younger adults is particularly troubling this year, when they are more at risk than usual for the effects of the H1N1 strain of flu that's circulating," the release quoted Levi.
Illinois is now in the midst of “widespread” seasonal flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Jan. 8, the Illinois Department of Health reported 122 flu-related intensive care unit hospitalization and six flu-related intensive care unit deaths. The IDPH expects to see an increase in the number of hospitalizations and deaths.The health department recommends everyone 6 months and older receive a flu vaccination.
People at high risk for serious flu complications include: people with underlying chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or neurological conditions; pregnant women; those younger than 5 years or older than 65 years of age; or anyone with a weakened immune system.
"This year, however, some who people have been severely ill with complications have been younger individuals with no underlying health problems," according to the IDPH.