Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
October 21, 1999
TRENTON - Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant today urged people with diabetes -- who are statistically three times more likely to die with complications of influenza and pneumonia than people without diabetes - to "get the flu shot and the pneu shot" this fall.
"Flu and pneumonia are ruthless killers of older adults and persons with diabetes and other chronic diseases," Grant said. "Fortunately we have very effective vaccines. Unfortunately, too few persons at risk are getting immunized."
Nationwide, only half those who suffer from diabetes get an annual flu shot and only a third have ever received the once-in-a-lifetime pneumococcal vaccine. The response from seniors nationwide and in New Jersey is similarly low. According to Medicare billing data, in 1997 only 40.3 percent of New Jersey residents age 65 and older received a flu shot; just 24.3 percent received the pneumococcal vaccine.
Efforts are underway in New Jersey to improve those numbers and get more persons at risk vaccinated. The state has partnered with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Diabetes Association, New Jersey Diabetes Council, Garden State Association of Diabetes Educators, Society of Public Health Educators, State Nurses Association, Podiatric Medical Society, Peer Review Organization of New Jersey (PRONJ), and local health departments and hospitals to distribute more than 30,000 brochures and 6,000 posters encouraging people with diabetes to be vaccinated. In addition, public service announcements produced and distributed by the CDC have been sent to all newspapers, radio and television stations that cover New Jersey news.
To get more seniors immunized, the Department of Health and Senior Services, in partnership with PRONJ, is now in the third year of a statewide educational campaign targeting both seniors and health care providers. The campaign urges seniors to ask for the vaccines and encourages physicians and other health care providers to offer the two shots to their patients age 65 and older. This year's campaign kicked-off earlier this month with immunization clinic at four Atlantic City casinos.
Influenza is a serious illness that causes symptoms such as include fever, aches and pains, sore throat, runny nose, and chills. When people over 65 or those with chronic health problems, such as diabetes, get the flu, they are more likely to develop complications which can lead to hospitalization and a loss of independence. A new flu vaccine is developed each year to effectively fight the various influenza viruses expected to be prevalent each winter.
The pneumococcal vaccine is generally given only once in a lifetime and protects recipients from almost all the bacteria that cause pneumococcal diseases, such as septicemia, meningitis and pneumonia.
Most private and public insurance programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover both vaccines. In addition to private doctors' offices, both shots are available at local immunization clinics held throughout the state each fall by health departments, visiting nurse associations and other health care providers. To find out about an immunization clinic in your area, contact your local health department.