PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- More than 100 kids died last year from influenza, and 90 percent of them were unvaccinated.
That's one of many statistics the Centers for Disease Control highlights in its new report on flu vaccination trends as it encourages Americans, young and old, to get their flu shots in anticipation of flu season.
But as the new CDC report shows, children are more likely to get vaccinated against the flu than most adults. Last year, only one third of young and middle-aged adults got the shot. The numbers suggest many of the very same adults driving their kids to the pharmacy or doctor's office to get pricked aren't getting vaccinated themselves.
"Influenza vaccines are safe, plentiful and we have more vaccine options than ever before -- at least one is right for everyone," Dr. William Schaffner, of Vanderbilt University, said during a press briefing sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases this week. "People should not wait to get vaccinated if their first choice is not available."
In other words, there's not a good excuse -- according to Dr. Schaffner and others -- not to get one.
"Among the vaccine options are the traditional flu shot, a nasal spray vaccine, an intradermal vaccine given with a much smaller needle, a high-dose vaccine for people age 65 and older and an egg-free vaccine," Schaffner added.
But availability and convenience haven't been enough to get adults to follow through. Last year, just 46.2 percent of Americans 6 months and older got a flu shot. Meanwhile, the flu claimed the lives of some 36,000 people in the United States in 2013, so some officials are resorting to what some might call scare tactics.
"Here's what it looks like," Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said at the briefing -- speaking of the slow decline of an eight-year-old flu patient who died.
"He came into the emergency department laughing and joking," explained Offit. But the young boy quickly needed help breathing -- first form an oxygen mask, then a ventilator and lastly a heart-lung machine. "And then he died," Offit said.
"It's out there lurking, ready to strike," Schaffner added.
The head of the CDC offered a slightly more optimistic tone, speaking to the press after getting his flu shot.
"It is encouraging that over the past few years more people are getting their flu vaccine, but we need to encourage more young and middle-aged adults to get vaccinated because they can also suffer serious consequences from the flu," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a press release. "Vaccination is the single most important step everyone 6 months of age and older can take to protect themselves and their families against influenza."