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Governor's Executive Order Temporarily Increases Access To Flu Shots

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With about 20,000 cases of the flu reported in the state so far this season, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order Saturday to expand access to flu shots.

For the next 30 days, the order will allow pharmacists to give the shot to babies and kids as young as six months old, instead of the normal minimum age of 18.

Doctors say it is the best way to protect against the virus, though it does take about two weeks to take full effect.

Cuomo has also declared a public health emergency in New York.

The state Health Department says the number of people admitted to hospitals with confirmed cases of the flu jumped 55 percent last week.

Two children have died.

Officials say the number of cases is likely to climb because flu is highly contagious, and victims can still spread it even after they begin to feel better.

It may be hard to convince anyone to get the shot, but Dr. Len Horvitz of Lenox Hill Hospital said that those who get the vaccine should not worry about becoming sicker.

"There's a terrible mythology circulating about the flu shot that dates back to the swine flu vaccine of the '70s. This is 40 years later and we have a much better, more refined, inactivated viral vaccine," said Horvitz. "So it's like a 'Cuisinart' virus, all chopped up, just to stimulate you to get the antibodies to protect you against the flu."

Even before Cuomo made his announcement, pharmacists told NY1 they saw an uptick in requests for flu shots

"Thursday I did about 20, Friday I did about 35," said Demetrios Papanakios of New London Pharmacy.

"I had mine in the middle of September. I always do it as early in the season as I can, to avoid any disappointment as they say," said a New Yorker.

Health officials will only know in April how bad the whole flu season was, when all cases are taken into account.

To find the nearest vaccine provider, visit flushot.healthmap.org or call 1-800-522-5006.

For more information about the flu, visit the DOH's flu website.

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