By Stephanie Stahl

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Federal health officials are urging people to get a flu shot now.

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Last year, the flu hospitalized a surprisingly large number of young and middle-aged Americans. Only a third got a flu shot.

Meanwhile, about 150 million doses of flu vaccine are expected to be available this season. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more.

Michael Martinez, who’s in his early 60s, is getting his very first flu shot.

Stahl asked him, “Why did you wait so long?”

“I was always afraid,” Martinez admitted.

To his surprise and relief, Michael says it didn’t hurt. He was among a big group of senior citizens at the Center in the Park in Germantown lining up for free flu shots sponsored by the National Council on Aging.

“I’m 65 years of age, and I want to stay as healthy as possible,” said Karen Lawrance, of Mt. Airy.

Influenza can be especially dangerous and deadly for the elderly, but new numbers from the CDC show 35 percent of seniors still don’t get the recommended yearly flu shot. In Philadelphia, it’s worse. Only 50 percent of Medicare recipients get vaccinated.

“People are afraid of the shot. People think they can get the flu from the shot, which they can’t,” said Dr. John Cacciamani, with Chestnut Hill Hospital.

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He says most flu related deaths are among the elderly, usually those who don’t get flu shots.

“We really need to do a better job as a community to get out there and get people vaccinated,” said Dr. Cacciamani.

There are different types of flu vaccines, including a higher dose flu shot made specifically for people over the age of 65. It’s designed to address age related decline in the immune system.

“We can’t predict what this year’s flu season will be like, but we can predict that the best way to protect yourself is to get the flu vaccination,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC.

Pneumonia can be a deadly complication of influenza. This year, for the first time, the CDC is recommending senior citizens get a second type of pneumonia vaccine along with their flu shot.

The flu season typically starts in October, and peaks in January.

LINKS:

CBS-3 Flu Resource Guide

National Council On Aging Flu Information

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CDC High-Dose Flu Vaccine Information

Stephanie Stahl