NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - The flu epidemic has gotten so bad in New York State that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order to help stop the spread of the virus. The order allows pharmacists to administer flu vaccines to children from 2 to 18. He is also urging people who have not done so already to get the flu shot.
Weekly flu diagnoses and hospitalizations have climbed to the highest on record, according to state health officials. Nearly 8,000 New Yorkers had flu diagnoses last week and nearly 2,000 people are in the hospital because of the flu.
Cuomo also called on the Department of Health to immediately expand the state's influenza public service advertising campaign targeting the areas of the state hardest hit by the flu.
Subscribers to the New York State text line will receive a message encouraging them to get a vaccine and providing resources to find a location to receive the vaccine.
The executive order suspends the section of state education law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents to anyone under age 18 to allow vaccines to be administered to anyone age 2 and up.
Parents and guardians are encouraged to call pharmacies ahead of their visit to ensure they are ready to receive patients in this age group. Parents and guardians with children between the ages of 6 months and 24 months are still encouraged to see their primary care provider for the vaccination.
State officials are also working with health insurance companies to make sure those who can't afford antiviral medication, such as Tamiflu or equivalent generics, get what they need. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you start taking antivirals within two days of having flu symptoms.