New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak of influenza in his state, where at least two children have died since October, media reports said Sunday.
The move allows pharmacies, which previously could only administer flu shots to people 18 and older, to vaccinate children 6 and older.
This flu season, which started in October and is expected to last until May, is "the worst since at least 2009," Cuomo said.
All New York residents should have access to flu shots, the governor said.
The number of registered flu cases in the state soared 55 percent last week, pushing the total number of cases this season to nearly five times the number in the last season.
A total of 19,128 flu cases have been registered in the state so far, up from the 4,404 registered in all of the previous flu season.
Some 2,884 people had been hospitalized as of Jan. 5, compared to the 1,169 people hospitalized due to the flu in the previous season.
At least 47 U.S. states have reported flu outbreaks and 24 have experienced high levels of the illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, said Friday.