Fight Back Against Influenza Week

Vaccines can literally mean the difference between life and death

“I guess they think they don’t need it.” said Dr. Janet Mohle –Boetani, the Chief of Public Health for the California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) of the numbers of CDCR staff who haven’t protected themselves against H1N1 and other strains of influenza by getting immunized. The numbers are startling.  Currently, only about 20% of the staff is vaccinated.  That compares to 60% of the inmate population.

“That’s been true for the last several years,” she added, despite the fact that vaccination can literally mean the difference between succumbing from the disease or survival, especially in the hardest hit states. 

This year California tops the list of states with the most severe outbreaks. The CDC says 45 deaths in California are already attributed to “influenza like illnesses.”

Most deaths are due to H1N1, a strong strain of influenza that surfaced in the United States in 2009 and that was originally called “swine flu.”  Tests results due next week are expected to confirm another 50 California deaths are also due to the same strain.

If so, H1N1 may be responsible for almost 100 deaths so far this year in California alone.  In 2009, H1N1 killed 657 Californians. But Dr. Mohle-Boetani said the difference was that there were no stockpiles of the H1N1 vaccine then.

Every year, manufacturers of the flu vaccine must determine the most likely strains to hit the population.  This year, it protects against three strains of influenza including H1N1.

Dr. Mohle-Boetani said the current vaccine is a good match and is effective against the strains that are most prevalent.  She reminded all staff that the “vaccines are safe of everyone, at any age, including pregnant women,” and she strongly urged all CDCR staff to receive the flu vaccine if they haven’t received it already.

CDCR offers the vaccine free to all staff members. The first distribution was in the fall and it’s being offered again as the annual Tuberculosis tests are administered.

An updated schedule of TB tests and flu vaccine distributions can be found in the attached PDF or go to:


For a related story, go to Preventing “Presenteeism.”

Flu seasons are usually from the fall to spring, and while the recent California spring-like weather may give some a false sense of security, it’s important to remember that the length of the flu season can vary greatly from year to year.

Experts say the worst of this flu season could be yet to come, so it would be prudent to get a potentially life-saving vaccination.

TB testing schedule as of Jan. 17