Health officials push this week for flu vaccinations

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Minnesotans have not been clamoring for flu vaccine this fall.

The state doesn't track the number of seasonal flu vaccinations given by retailers and providers, but the Minnesota Department of Health does track the number of children who get flu vaccine through the agency's free childhood immunization program.

Vaccinations expert Kris Ehresmann said interest in that program has been less than usual.

"This year we haven't had that level of intensity of calls and concerns about supply," she said. "That let's us know that the supply is more than enough and in fact, that we want to see more people take advantage of using that up and getting vaccinated."

Public health officials are making a special push this week to get more people vaccinated against influenza.

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Minnesota's campaign is called "Ban the Bug." Extra vaccination clinics will be offered by many health providers this week and during the rest of December.

Ehresmann said the flu season has been relatively quiet so far, but that could change quickly.

"It's still really important to get vaccinated because I can tell you that for the last thousand years influenza comes around every single year," she said. "Sometimes it can be mild. Sometimes it's moderate seasons. But we know that it will be here. And so we want to encourage people to get vaccinated."

Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. This year's flu vaccine protects against three strains of flu, including the H1N1 pandemic strain.

U.S. manufacturers have made a record amount of flu vaccine. Ehresmann says if the supply doesn't get used up, manufacturers could reduce the amount of vaccine they make next year.