OGDEN -- The flu vaccination now is recommended for all people older than six months, and it isn't too late to get one for this season.
That was one message Thursday from William Atkinson, a physician and one of the Centers for Disease Control's leading researchers in disease prevention.
In town for a vaccination conference sponsored by the Northern Utah Immunization Coalition, Atkinson spoke at the Timbermine Restaurant in front of several hundred health professionals.
Atkinson said that while the flu season normally is over by April, there still are outbreaks in Utah and more serious outbreaks in other states.
"People will still die (of the flu) between now and June," he said. "Don't let your vaccine expire in your refrigerator. Use it."
Atkinson said the recommendations for flu vaccines recently changed to include all people older than six months. Previously, he said, the vaccine was not recommended for healthy people between the ages of 19 and 49.
But experience has shown that even healthy people may get very ill from the flu.
"Anyone who breathes, the influenza vaccine is now recommended for them," he said.
And even though the vaccine that will come out next fall will guard against the same strains of flu as the current vaccine, he said the CDC still recommends that people who were immunized this year get it again next year.
"You are going to say a thousand times, 'Yes, you still need a dose this year even if you got one last year,' " he said.
Atkinson said one group of people who should be especially careful about flu vaccines are those who are considered obese. He said the CDC learned from the H1N1 epidemic that this group is much more at risk of serious illness or death as a result of the flu.
Atkinson also cleared up some controversy that arose recently when a health care worker on a well-publicized radio talk show recommended giving the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine to pregnant women.
"We never recommend MMR or varicella (chicken pox) vaccine for pregnant women," he said. "Definitely, pregnant women should not be given live vaccine."
Atkinson also said the Food and Drug Administration recently changed its recommendation for shingles vaccine from 60 and older to those who are 50 and older.
Another concern Atkinson shared had to do with improper administration of vaccines by health care professionals. He outlined procedures for doctors and nurses to take when they've discovered someone has received the wrong vaccine or one that was administered improperly.
"All of us have been frightened by the fact that we've heard about an awful lot of vaccine administration errors," he said. "These are all 100 percent human errors. You can't necessarily engineer out human errors."
Atkinson warned health professionals to make sure everyone who administers vaccines in their clinics is trained to be extremely careful.
Those who want more information about vaccinations, such as schedules for administration, are encouraged to visit the website cdc.gov/vaccines.
There's also a toll-free number, 1-800-CDC-INFO.