Sept. 28 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this morning will announce it’s guidelines for this year’s flu season, with focus this year place on increasing the number of people vaccinated after statistics suggest little increase in those opting for the vaccine.

Influenza seasons can be hard to predict varying from mild to severe depending on the season and the predominant strain of influenza for that season.

A just-released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report estimate from the 2016-2017 influenza season showed mostly stagnant vaccination rates among all age groups, with small increases in those 50 and older.

Flu vaccination coverage throughout the entire United States was 46.8 percent, which is an increase of 1.2 percent from the 2015-2016 season, the CDC reports.

In the 2015-2016 flu season, there were decreases in vaccination coverage among adults age 50 to 64 and 65 and older, however, rates recovered in the 2016-2017 season. Vaccination rates increased by 1.8 percentage points to 45.4 percent in the 50 to 64 age group and by 1.9 percentage points to 65.3 percent in the 65 and older age group.

“We are pleased to see that the decrease in vaccination coverage among adults age 50 and older we saw in the 2015-2016 season was not sustained during the 2016-2017 season,” said Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, director of the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland. “It is critical to maintain the highest level of vaccination coverage for older adults because they are disproportionally affected by flu.”

“Vaccination not only reduces the chance that older adults will get the flu, it can also help keep them out of the hospital by reducing the severity of the infection and related complications if they do get the flu.”

There were fewer deaths from the flu reported last season but higher hospitalization rates. During the 2016-2017 flu season, the hospitalization rate was double that of the 2015-2016 season and higher across all age groups. In most seasons, the higher hospitalization rates are among older adults 65 and older.

“While we don’t yet know what this season has in store, the science on flu vaccination is clear. Vaccination can help prevent you or someone you love from becoming sick and missing school or work, or worse, becoming severely ill or being hospitalized from or even dying from flu,” Dr. Tom Price, secretary of health and human services, said in a news release. “Today, I am leading by example and getting vaccinated against flu. I urge everyone six months and older to do the same as soon as vaccine is available in their community.”

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