The Health Department today launched a public awareness campaign reminding New Yorkers that the flu vaccination is the best protection against “Pain. Fever. Chills. Misery.” The campaign will feature four English and two Spanish ads, which will run in subway cars. The campaign will also have a social media presence. Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory viral illness that can cause significant illness and death. More New Yorkers die from influenza and pneumonia than from any other infection.

NYC Dept of Health
NYC Dept of Health

Last year, 1,610 New Yorkers died from influenza and pneumonia; 80%-90% of influenza-related deaths are among persons aged 65 years and older. Influenza activity is usually at its peak January through March, but it can start as early as November. It is important to get vaccinated now – before influenza season starts. The NYC Health Department is also producing an informational ‘Influenza Health Bulletin’ for the public in English and 11 other languages. The Health Bulletin and other influenza information can be found by visiting and searching for ‘health bulletins.’

“It is important to get your flu vaccine as early as possible, and if you can’t make it to your doctor’s office it’s conveniently available at local pharmacies such as CVS, Duane Reade, Rite Aid, and Walgreens,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The vaccine is safe and does not cause the flu, yet unfortunately about one-third of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, those under age 5 and over 65 remain unprotected each season. The flu, combined with pneumonia – a common complication of influenza – is the third leading cause of preventable death in New York City.”

While annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all people aged 6 months and older, it is especially recommended for those at risk of developing influenza-related complications. Those at risk include children under 5, pregnant women, adults aged 65 and older, and people with chronic health conditions, such as heart, lung, and kidney disease, diabetes, morbid obesity and those who are immune compromised. Health care workers and other people who live or work with people at high risk of influenza complications, also need a flu vaccine to avoid infecting others.

Flu vaccine can help prevent pain and misery of influenza. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalizations among several high-risk groups, including persons with diabetes, chronic lung disease and in those over 50 years of age. Pregnant women have a four-fold higher risk of being hospitalized if they get the flu. A flu vaccine can protect them and their infant by passing on protective antibodies to their infants until they can get their own vaccine at 6 months.

Flu vaccine coverage was 44% for persons aged 18 years and older. Coverage was lower for younger adults: 35% for persons aged 18-49 years, 50% for persons aged 50-64 years and 64% for persons aged 65 years and older.  Vaccination coverage differed by race and ethnicity for older New Yorkers.  Among New Yorkers aged 65 and older, there are disparities in the prevalence of flu vaccinations between Black non-Hispanics (53%) compared with White non-Hispanics (69%) and Hispanics (68%), according to the 2014 Community Health Survey.

To help prevent the spread of infection in the community and among children under 5 in the child care setting, the Board of Health approved an amendment in December 2013 requiring children between 6 months and 5 years of age enrolled in city-licensed childcares, preschools, Head Start or pre-Kindergarten programs to receive an annual influenza vaccination by December 31st each year.

Influenza vaccination coverage for all children in New York City remains below the national coverage goal of 70 percent. Based on Citywide Immunization Registry data, for last season, influenza vaccination coverage rates for children in New York City with at least one dose was:

  • Aged 6 to 59 month-olds- 67%
  • Aged 5 to 8 year-olds- 50%
  • Aged 9 to18 year olds- 34%

To get your flu vaccine, check with your child’s or your medical care providers. Adults (18 years and older), can go to a chain pharmacy or the many independent pharmacies that offer flu vaccine throughout the City.