Health Dept. promotes flu vaccine


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Today, as part of a series of visits to promote vaccination, New Jersey Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal visited Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center to talk with hospital clinicians about the importance of health care workers getting vaccinated and to commend the hospital on its high staff vaccination rate.

“Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center is doing an outstanding job getting staff vaccinated, with nearly 100 percent of their personnel immunized against the flu,” said Dr. Elnahal. “We know that when healthcare personnel get vaccinated, not only are they protected, but they also protect those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain illnesses.”

Ninety-eight percent of Penn Medicine Princeton Health staff have been vaccinated against flu. The remaining two percent includes those with medical and religious exemptions and staff on leave.

"Our organization made a commitment to a mandatory vaccine policy because it is one of the best ways to ensure that we are proactive in reducing the risk of unnecessarily exposing our patients, visitors, and each other to the flu,” said Janet L. Ready, RN, FACHE, President of Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center. “Some groups—notably young children, seniors, pregnant women, and individuals with certain health conditions—are susceptible to serious health complications from the flu. These high-risk groups account for a significant number of the patients we see. As healthcare professionals, it is our duty to do whatever we can to protect their health and safety."

The Acting Commissioner’s visit is a part of a month-long series of visits to hospitals, nursing homes, rehab facilities and county health departments to promote flu vaccination. On Thursday, February 15, Dr. Elnahal visited Inglemoor Rehabilitation & Care Center in Livingston to visit patients and talk with 50 staff members about vaccination and other steps to prevent the spread of flu. Ninety-six percent of residents and 99 percent of staff have been vaccinated at the facility. Next week, the Acting Commissioner will visit an Ocean County Health Department clinic where flu vaccinations will be offered to local residents.

“It is not too late to get vaccinated. Flu activity usually peaks between December and February, but it can last until May,” Elnahal added. “Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccination this season.”

The Department has launched its #FighttheFluNJ campaign to encourage residents to get vaccinated and take steps to prevent the spread of flu, which includes social media, posters, and digital billboards across the state.

Certain people are at greater risk for serious complications from the flu. Those at high risk include:

Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old

People 65 years of age and older

Pregnant women and women up to 2 weeks after end of pregnancy

American Indians and Alaskan Natives

People who have medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes

Flu vaccination should also be a priority for those persons who live with or care for individuals at higher risk for influenza-related complications. This includes healthcare personnel and household contacts of children less than six months of age, since these children are too young to receive the flu vaccine.

It is also important to cover coughs and sneezes, avoid touching hands to mouth, nose and eyes, wash your hands frequently, and stay home when sick. If you do get sick, ask your healthcare provider if antiviral medications are right for you. These medications can shorten the length of time you are sick.

For more information about influenza, including where to find vaccine, visit the Department’s flu website at http://nj.gov/health/cd/topics/flu.shtml. The Department’s flu website also has information for parents who may be concerned about the current flu season, as well, information for schools dealing with flu outbreaks.

Residents can find flu vaccination clinics near them by calling their local health department. Local health department contact information can be found on this site: www.localhealth.nj.gov.

The Department has been sharing materials with its partners across the state on flu prevention, including the New Jersey Department of Education, New Jersey Department of Children and Families and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

The Department collects information on flu-like illness weekly from a sampling of healthcare providers to assess flu activity in the state. Weekly surveillance reports can be found at: http://nj.gov/health/cd/statistics/flu-stats/.



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