Facebook Application I'm a Flu Fighter Announced by Sebelius

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It’s National Influenza Vaccination Week, and now people can tell their friends that they received their flu vaccination and encourage others to do the same with the Facebook application “I’m a Flu Fighter.” The new Facebook tool was announced today by US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during her visit at Hunter College in New York City.

Up until recently, it would have been somewhat difficult for many people to declare “I’m a Flu Fighter” given that when the H1N1 vaccine first became available, supplies were limited. That’s when the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended that people who were at greatest risk for complications from the virus, along with people who were caring for high-risk individuals who cannot get the vaccination, should receive the vaccine first. Those target groups included pregnant women, people who lived with or care for children younger than six months of age, health care and emergency medical services personnel, anyone six months through 24 years of age, and people ages 25 through 64 at high risk for H1N influenza because of chronic health conditions or a compromised immune system.

Now, however, supplies of the vaccine are plentiful, and most states have opened up vaccination to anyone who wants to get it, including people age 65 and older. Therefore, Secretary Sebelius and the CDC are now encouraging everyone who was waiting for the vaccine to get it. The HHS has come up with an innovative approach with the “I’m a Flu Fighter” Facebook application.

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According to an HHS press release, Secretary Sebelius noted that, “Social media has been an important tool to communicate with young people and all Americans about the importance of getting the H1N1 Flu vaccine throughout our vaccination program. This new Facebook application will help friends encourage each other to get the H1N1 flu vaccine.”

The “I’m a Flu Fighter” Facebook application involves four steps. “Choose My Character” allows users to select a superhero, a doctor, a virus behind bars, or a cartoon syringe to represent themselves as a flu fighter. In step two, Facebook users let others know whether they got the flu vaccine or if they plan to, and how it was (could be better, fine, good, great!). In step three, users can send invitations to their friends that challenge them to get vaccinated. In the last step, users are taken to a page that provides resources about the flu. All user information is controlled by users through their privacy settings.

“I’m a Flu Fighter” Facebook application was developed through the HealthySocial research project at Children’s Hospital Boston in collaboration with HHS. The HHS and Secretary Sebelius are hoping it catches on. “Friends, family and neighbors can make the difference in whether or not someone gets vaccinated against the flu," said Secretary Sebelius.

SOURCES:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
HHS press release, Jan 14, 2010

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