OGDEN -- Health officials are worried that not enough people are getting vaccinated against the flu this year.
Both the Weber-Morgan and Davis health departments are reporting lower numbers of people being immunized compared with last year.
"Last year, we immunized tens of thousands of people against H1N1," said Michelle Singleton, immunization director at Weber-Morgan Health Department.
"This year, numbers are down for seasonal flu shots, which include H1N1, at least at the health department. Last year, we gave 3,812 during October alone and a couple thousand more in November and December.
"We don't know if people are being apathetic because (vaccine) is so available or because they haven't seen high numbers of cases being reported in the news."
This year, the health department has administered only 2,394 shots all season, Singleton said.
Davis County Health Department epidemiologist Brian Hatch said the department has administered just more than 3,000 shots this year.
The health department usually orders 8,000 to 10,000 shots to be given each year, he said.
"We're seeing a very slow start, and it does have us a little bit concerned," Hatch said.
He said many people might not think they need the shot this year because they were vaccinated against H1N1 last year.
However, this year's strain also includes two other seasonal influenza strains, Hatch said.
Choosing not to be vaccinated is taking a chance, Singleton said.
"If people wait until disease levels are high, they take a big risk of being exposed to the disease before their immunity levels can rise to a protective level," she said.
So far, there have been 11 hospitalizations in Utah because of influenza this year, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Four of those hospitalizations have been children up to the age of 4, two between 5 and 24 years of age, two between the ages of 25 and 49, two between 50 and 64 and one older than 65.
One person has died from complications.
Of those tested for influenza in the past week, three have been confirmed to have H1N1, 34 people have confirmed H3, and two people have tested positive for influenza type B.
It takes about two weeks for the body to build up a resistance to influenza after receiving the vaccine, Singleton said. Flu season is a year-round occurrence, with a peak during the months from January to March.
"We never know when that peak will occur, so we begin immunizing in September, hoping to avoid disease spread," she said.
The vaccines are readily available throughout the community, from the health department, to doctor's offices and pharmacies, Singleton said.
Hatch said although the flu generally peaks in the midwinter months, Utah has seen it peak as early as November.
"I think because we haven't seen a lot of activity, people might be a little more complacent about getting the shot," he said.
"But there are also other opportunities for vaccinations today than just the traditional health department route. A lot of pharmacies are also now offering the shot."
Several local pharmacies are reporting that numbers for flu vaccinations are up.
"In Northern Utah, we are administering more flu shots than at this time last year," said Marsh Gilford, Smith's corporate spokeswoman. "We hope that the numbers will increase even more."
Gilford said flu shots at any Smith's will only cost $15 instead of $25.
"We are dropping the price in an effort to provide a great opportunity for more people to be vaccinated," she said.
"No appointment is necessary. You can just drop in any time."
Mike Mathis, a pharmacist at Walgreens in South Ogden, said so far this year, his pharmacy has vaccinated approximately 1,500 people.
"It's starting to tail off right now. We're giving maybe four or five shots a day, but we're still giving more than we did at this time last year," he said.
"We also only give vaccinations to those 9 years of age and up."
Singleton said children up to the age of 18 are being vaccinated at a steady pace.
"The flu immunizations for the Vaccine for Children Program are as high or higher than other years," she said.
Singleton said she encourages everyone to be immunized if they haven't done so yet because there's still time to build up an immunity.
"We can stop the upwards peak. We can get ourselves and our family members immunized today and prevent big numbers for this year's flu," she said.
"Immunize now. Just because it hasn't hit yet doesn't mean it won't. Don't be the one who says, 'We should have gotten immunized,' when you are sitting up night after night taking care of a sick family member."
Both the Weber-Morgan and Davis County health departments are offering the influenza vaccine.