RI aims to vaccinate three-quarters of residents

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s first lady on Tuesday set a goal of immunizing more than three-quarters of the state’s population against influenza, a significant increase over last year’s vaccination rate.

Shortly before getting vaccinated herself, Stephanie Chafee, a nurse and the wife of Gov. Lincoln Chafee, said she hopes 800,000 people get a flu shot.

Almost 500,000 people were immunized in the state last year, an increase of 7 percent to 8 percent from the year before, according to state Health Department Director Michael Fine. Rhode Island has just over 1 million residents.

“There is no good reason not to get vaccinated,” said Fine, who rolled up his sleeve and was given the vaccine by Chafee at a Statehouse event launching the campaign.

Both stressed the public health benefits of receiving the vaccine, especially for the young, the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, asthma and heart disease. They urged people to get it from their doctors, at local pharmacies or at free clinics.

“I’ll even come vaccinate anyone who wants to be vaccinated,” said Chafee.

Fine said there were 831 hospitalizations for influenza in Rhode Island last year, a particularly bad year for flu. He said the state has not had a good way of tracking flu deaths but that a new reporting requirement will change that this year.

Rhode Island last year instituted a new rule requiring health care workers to get immunized against flu, or wear a mask when they come in contact with patients during periods when flu is widespread.

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