OLYMPIA — State health officials are hoping to head off another deadly flu season with a new campaign to promote flu shots.

“Everyone 6 months and older, even healthy teens and young adults, should get vaccinated,” State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said in a Department of Health press release.

In the last flu season, which runs from fall to spring, 296 people in Washington died from flu-related conditions, making it the state’s deadliest flu season in at least eight years. Thousands of others were hospitalized.

“Last year was one of the most severe flu seasons on record for Washington, and data just released shows only 61 percent of Washington children and teens were vaccinated,” Lofy said. Vaccination rates dropped for older children, with only 51 percent of teens getting the flu shot, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Nationwide, the last flu season was one of the deadliest in recorded history. About 180 U.S. children died of flu or flu-related pneumonia. According to the CDC, 80 percent of those deaths occurred among kids who were not immunized.

Washington provides all recommended vaccines at no cost for kids from birth through age 18. They are available through most health providers, some pharmacies and many local health departments. Providers may charge an office visit fee or a vaccine administration fee, but any family that can’t afford to pay can ask that the administration fee be waived.

For help finding a healthcare provider or an immunization clinic, or to learn the signs and symptoms of flu, visit KnockOutFlu.org.

Weekly reports throughout flu season track flu activity in Washington.

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