So far this year, the CDC says, based on activity in the Southern Hemisphere, the vaccine appears to be a good match for the virus that is circulating. The season has just begun in the United States, and the CDC says there have been only low levels of flu reported.
Public health officials believe all the attention given to flu will prompt more people to get a vaccination. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, a nonprofit information clearinghouse, found in recent surveys that 92 percent of doctors discuss the vaccine with their patients, and 95 percent of the doctors plan to get vaccinated themselves.
The group's surveys also found that more than two-thirds of Americans were aware of the new CDC recommendation that all should be vaccinated, and about the same number intended to get a vaccination — seniors had the highest rate at 73 percent.
Almost two-thirds of people, however, thought there were other effective ways to prevent the flu and weren't worried about the ailment. More than 60 percent thought the vaccine could make them sick, something health professionals say is a myth.
Other research shows that vaccination can help more vulnerable children than previously thought. A study expected to be published next year in the journal Archive of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine by Johns Hopkins University researchers shows that babies whose mothers are immunized while pregnant appear less likely to get the flu or to be hospitalized with respiratory illnesses in their first six months of life — a time when they can't get their own vaccinations.
For young kids who are old enough for the vaccine but allergic to eggs, other Hopkins research shows many can still be immunized. The vaccine is developed in eggs, but those without a severe allergy can still get a vaccination.
Already, many of all ages in Baltimore are heeding the advice to get a vaccination, said Dr. Anne Bailowitz, the city's chief medical officer. Last year, Baltimore officials vaccinated people 31,500 for H1N1 flu and 11,000 for seasonal flu.
Typically, 5,000 are vaccinated for seasonal flu, she said. Less than two weeks after clinics began again in the city, 800 people had been immunized, a "pretty vigorous response," said Bailowitz, adding the city has reached out through churches, Facebook and Google's flu finder. Because of funding problems, the city will not offer separate school clinics this year, however.
She urged those who were sick or had a vaccination last year to again get a vaccination because immunity isn't guaranteed. She said only those tested know precisely what they had, and many viruses mimic the flu.
"People saw the benefit of getting vaccinated last year," Bailowitz said. "There's definitely heightened interest."
•The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccination.
•The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against three flu viruses, including the H1N1 virus.
•The vaccine is widely available at doctors' offices, retail outlets and public clinics.
•The flu can cause fever, cough, aches, runny nose and fatigue. It can lead to death.