Federal health officials push for early flu shots

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NEW YORK (CBS) The CDC says last flu season was the deadliest in at least four decades. Now health officials are pushing for everyone six months and older to get the flu vaccine before the start of the flu season.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb rolled up their sleeves to get flu shots in Washington Thursday, doing their part to make sure the upcoming flu season isn't as bad as the last one.

The CDC estimates 80,000 people died of the flu and its complications last season. That's the highest death toll in at least four decades. There were also 900,000 hospitalizations.

"It's especially deadly for older adults, pregnant women, chronic medical conditions and children," Surgeon General Adams.

The CDC also reported a record-breaking number of pediatric deaths from the flu -- 180 kids.

"Think of it, 180 families put a child in a grave last year because of a vaccine-preventable infection," said Dr. Wendy Sue L. Swanson with Seattle Children's Hospital.

The CDC blames the severity on a particularly bad strain and lower vaccination rates in key groups.

"More than 40 percent of kids were not vaccinated against the flu, seeing a decline in coverage in this age group is very very worrisome," Adams said.

The CDC recommends people get vaccinated by the end of October.

Health experts stress that even though people can still get the flu after getting vaccinated, they are much less likely to get severely sick and end up in the hospital or dying.