ATLANTA: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Medical Association (AMA) have announced an inaugural weeklong event to focus attention on the importance of flu shots, in the hopes that Americans will receive the vaccination in record numbers this year.
The first ever National Influenza Vaccination Week will start the week following Thanksgiving. CDC spokesperson Curtis Allen emphasized that the agency is depending upon its partners to help get the word out.
"I can't emphasize enough the importance of engaging our partners in this," Allen said. "Those are the people at the local, grassroots level who can put the vaccines into arms; no one [is] lined up at the CDC for flu shots."
The CDC and the AMA have also co-sponsored the National Influenza Vaccine Summit, an initiative that hopes to bring together representatives from vaccine research, distribution, and production, as well as public health and medical providers.
Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services - including Secretary Mike Leavitt and acting Surgeon General Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu - will also make media appearances during the week as part of the effort.
Allen said the CDC is also ramping up its ad spend, putting $1 million into TV and radio spots, compared to just $25,000 a year ago.
The Academy for Educational Development, a DC-based nonprofit, is producing the PSAs and VNRs for the campaign.
At stake could be the volume of vaccine available in years to come. Seventy-seven million doses of the vaccine have already been distributed, and supply is expected to reach an all-time high of 115 million doses. But Allen said the concern is that distributors would pull out of the market if the supply wasn't met with equal demand.
"They may leave the market, which has happened in the past," he said. "Our concern is public health, but we have to realize they're in business to make a profit. If they can't, they'll have to leave the market, therefore hurting public health."
The production and distribution is currently meeting expectations, according to CDC's Immunization Services Division, which should allow most providers to begin vaccinating soon.