(StatePoint) Amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, with hospitals and health care workers already overburdened, medical experts say it’s more important than ever to slow the spread of the flu. In a typical year, the flu causes tens of millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S.
That is why the Ad Council, the American Medical Association (AMA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC Foundation have launched a new campaign, “No One Has Time for Flu.” As part of the campaign, Dr. Susan R. Bailey, M.D., president of the AMA, is sharing important insights about flu vaccination:
• Flu vaccines are safe: The flu vaccine is a safe, effective step that physicians and public health experts recommend to protect patients and their loved ones from getting sick with influenza. This year, doctor’s offices and pharmacies are taking steps to ensure vaccines can be provided safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC recommends that each year everyone 6 months and older (with rare exceptions) get a flu vaccine early in the season, preferably by the end of October, before flu is spreading widely.
• Getting one is important this year: Because you can get flu and COVID-19 at the same time, it’s especially important for people with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of serious complications — and their caregivers — to get their flu shot. At the community level, the potential impact of a bad flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic could be devastating. Getting a flu shot will help keep others healthy and help make sure health care workers and hospitals have the resources to continue to treat COVID-19 patients.
• Flu protection is especially urgent for people of color: Due to longstanding health care inequities, Black and Latinx/Hispanic people are disproportionately affected by underlying conditions which can cause both COVID-19 and flu complications. This results in much greater rates of flu-related hospitalizations. Indeed, a new CDC analysis of 10 flu seasons showed that Black people were hospitalized at a rate twice as high as White people.
Black and LatinX/Hispanic communities are also less likely to get vaccinated due to a range of barriers. CDC data shows that in the 2019-20 flu season, Latinx/Hispanic adults had the lowest flu vaccination coverage (38.3 percent), with non-Hispanic Black adults next lowest (41.2 percent).
• Getting vaccinated is easy: Vaccines are often free or offered at very low cost. To learn more about safe, affordable flu vaccination, including where to get one in your area, visit GetMyFluShot.org. You can also view a short video on flu vaccination by visiting, youtu.be/cl7wNuU5IIU.
“No one has time to get sick from flu — especially this year,” says Dr. Bailey. “Getting a flu shot is one thing we all can do to help protect ourselves, our families and our communities.”