The Centers for Disease Control is advising a record number of Americans to get a flu shot this fall. They report about 86 percent of the population or 261 million people will need to be innoculated.
For the first time, the government is recommending that all children ages 5 to 18 be vaccinated. That's an additional 30 million more school children than ever before.
Also, children aged 6-months to 8 years should get two flu shots at least one month a part, because a single shot may not give them full protection.
"Get out there and get protected and protect others and for sure protect your children," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"People should start getting vaccinated now, yesterday actually," added Dr. William Schaffner, president-elect of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
Also on CDC's get-vaccinated list: Anyone 50 or older. Health care workers; caregivers and relatives of the high-risk; and pregnant women. Newborns can't be vaccinated, but a fetus does absorb protection from a vaccinated mother.
The CDC says unlike years past, there's an ample supply of vaccine with 143 million to 146 million doses available.
Each year, the flu kills about 36,000 Americans and sends another 200,000 to the hospital. Children of any age that appear healthy can die from the flu - 86 last year, with an age range from babies to teens.
Perhaps the most stunning fact from the CDC -- just 42 percent of health care workers get vaccinated. These are people who could be infecting patients in doctors' offices and hospitals.
CDC's Gerberding called it "unconscionable" for health workers to avoid vaccination: "This is a patient safety issue."
The flu vaccine costs around $25. Choices include the old-fashioned shot for all ages, and the nasal vaccine FluMist, which can be used in healthy people ages 2 to 49.
More than 140 schools around the country are scheduling flu-vaccination days, some with free vaccine, according FluMist maker MedImmune Inc.
Source: The Associated Press, U.S. Centers For Disease Control