From the CDC (for the week ending January 24, 2009): "Widespread influenza activity was reported by two states (New Jersey and Virginia)."
A CDC official this week commented on the slow start to the flu vaccine season.
Except, it seems, in only two states – Virginia and New Jersey. What's kind of interesting about this fact is that New Jersey is now the only state in the country to mandate influenza vaccination for those infants and children ages 6 months to 5 years old in preschool and/or daycare. Oh well. Guess it didn't help much this year. Now tell that to all the panicked and angry parents forced to give their youngsters the vaccine or pull them out of school/daycare. As I've written before, the best current available evidence does not support universal flu vaccination for children under two. And for those 2-5, it's very limited.
So, rather than leading to a vast reduction in flu morbidity and mortality, the flu vaccine mandate in NJ has triggered a troubling trend. Faced with no other options, in order to avoid flu vaccination, parents in record numbers are claiming religious exemptions and thereby bypassing all childhood immunizations. As I've said and will continue to advocate, the success of our public health immunization program depends on the trust and confidence of parents. From someone on the front lines, I can tell you that we have a long, long way to go.