NEW YORK: It isn't flu season yet, but outreach efforts are nevertheless in full swing to educate the public about disease prevention.
Messages this year are being shaped in part by last year's vaccine shortage ? when healthy people were urged to forgo the shot ? as well as the relatively mild strain.
"You're always working with an environment that's changing," says Alison Marquiss, director of corporate communications at Chiron, which makes the Fluvirin vaccine. "A tough flu season has a silver lining because you're educating people" about how to prevent the disease.
October 24 marks the first time flu shots will be available to the public, and Chiron is now trying to let people know that "they're there for the taking."
The company last year failed to supply roughly half the nation's flu vaccine after officials in the UK found that batches had been contaminated.
But Marquiss noted that it is the business press that is most interested in the story about Chiron's comeback ? not the public. "It's not a Chiron-specific message; it's a flu message," she said.
Chiron is just one of the companies reaching out to the public.
The National Foundation of Infectious Diseases (NFID) last month held a press conference that brought together leaders from government agencies and medical groups.
Len Novick, executive director of the NFID, noted that the non-profit organization then worked with the head of the immunization program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a satellite media tour that "reinforced" the need for vaccination.
It also distributed a radio news release featuring its medical director.
He added that the NFID has released PSAs that had been created for last year but were never distributed because of the vaccine shortage.
"The goal of the PSA campaign is to reach consumers, particularly those at high risk for influenza-related complications, with strong influenza prevention messages to encourage immunization throughout the season," Novick said in an e-mail.