Flu shots prevented 7.2M illnesses last year

Approximately 7.2 million flu-related illnesses were avoided last year due because of flu shots, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also reports flu shots helped prevent 3.1 million medically attended illnesses and 90,000 flu-related hospitalizations during the October 2013 to May 2014 flu season.

These numbers are slightly higher than previous flu seasons' estimates. The CDC's model estimated flu vaccinations resulted in 1.1-6.6 million fewer flu illnesses and 7,700 to 79,000 fewer hospitalizations per season during the 2005 to 2013 seasons.

While the past year's numbers are an improvement — a 17 percent reduction in illnesses — the CDC still has its sights set on higher goals. Part of the agency's Healthy People 2020 campaign aims to reach a flu vaccination level of 70 percent, which is estimated to prevent an additional 5.9 million illnesses, 2.3 million medically attended illnesses and 42,000 flu-related hospitalizations.

Currently, fewer than half of people over 6 months are estimated to receive the flu vaccine.

"For the nation to more fully benefit from influenza vaccines, more effort is needed to reach the Healthy People 2020 target," reads the CDC report.

More articles on flu vaccines:

Patient safety tool: CDC's National Flu Shot Week materials
Employee rights vs. patient safety: The balance of mandatory flu shots
CDC: This year's flu vaccine not effective on season's predominate strains


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