OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahomans need to receive their influenza shots earlier this year, and children need to keep getting the shots into their teens, according to state health officials.
Until this year, federal recommendations called for children from 6 months to 5 years to receive flu shots. Now that guideline has been extended until children turn 18.
Some flu vaccine already is making its way into Oklahoma, said Don Blose, the state Health Department's immunization director.
“That's earlier than normal … unusually early for any flu vaccine to be available,” he said.
The earlier shipments are occurring because health officials want to have 30 million more Americans receive the vaccine than in past years.
“We must not forget that anyone can get the flu,” said Susan Mendus, the training director for the Health Department's immunization service. “It might not kill you, but if you take it home to your babies or to your grandparents it might kill them.”
Health Department statistics indicate that nationwide, 83 children died during the last flu season from the illness. About 36,000 people in the U.S., many of them elderly, die from the illness during each flu season.
Flu can occur at any time of year, although the first cases in Oklahoma typically aren't reported until late November or early December of each year. The average flu season lasts through April.
Five manufacturers are expected to supply about 143 million doses of vaccine during the coming flu season. Of that, the state Health Department has ordered 195,000 doses of adult flu vaccine, which will be distributed through county health departments.
Also, a federal program will allow 184,000 doses of vaccine for children to be made available to both the public and private sector. Another 416,000 doses of flu vaccine for children will be able to be purchased privately, officials said.
Blose said the vaccine will offer protection against three strains of flu.