Cuomo rolls out new measure to combat pediatric flu

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FREEPORT -

State officials announced new efforts Monday to protect children in need from the deadly flu epidemic.

It comes after four deaths in New York City from the flu this season. Dozens more pediatric flu deaths have been reported across the country.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had issued an executive order last month to allow children ages 2 through 18 to be vaccinated at pharmacies, which had not been permitted in the past. Today, Cuomo announced legislation to make those vaccines free for certain patients.

MORE: Tips for flu prevention | Find a flu shot near you

A child is eligible for a free vaccine if they are uninsured or underinsured, meaning their insurance doesn't cover the flu. Children who are Medicaid-enrolled or eligible, or enrolled in Child Health Plus can also get the vaccine free of cost, and the measure also covers Native American or Alaska-native children.

Howard Jacobson, the vice president of the LI Pharmacist Society who owns three pharmacies, says this kind of legislation is badly needed.

"Lowering the cost, making it no charge is certainly going to help the situation and make more people be aware of it and get the vaccine," he says.

State health officials say the number of lab-confirmed flu cases continues to rise, with 15,750 reported since last week, including about 2,350 who needed hospitalization.

Those are the highest weekly numbers since the epidemic began nine weeks ago. More than 52,000 cases of the flu have been confirmed statewide since Feb. 3.

Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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