Fall is upon us and as we transition into winter, Americans will soon be dealing with two lung infections: the flu and COVID-19. While COVID-19 is far more serious and deadly than the flu, the flu can be also dangerous, especially for those at high risk. In fact, last year more than 400,000 Americans were hospitalized from the flu. That’s why it is more important this year, than ever, to get your flu shot. By protecting yourself from the flu, you can help save those lifesaving hospital beds and ventilators for individuals who may contract COVID-19.
In the 2019-20 influenza season, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 7.5 million illnesses, 3.7 million medical visits, 105,000 hospitalizations and 6,300 deaths. But despite all these benefits, many individuals underutilize this vaccine. In fact, only half of all Americans six months of age and older (52%) received their flu shot last season.
Age-Related Health Disparities
While anyone can get the flu, you are at increased risk of contracting the flu and having severe complications if you are an adult 50 years of age and older. Adults over 55 have declining immune systems and 80%have one or more chronic health conditions – like heart or lung disease or diabetes - that make flu symptoms more serious and even deadly. In fact, the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and American Lung Association issued a joint statement this October reminding these high-risk groups to get their flu vaccination.
In some cases, these groups may be the same individuals that are at high-risk for complications from COVID-19. Both lung infections could exacerbate your chronic medical condition and have long-lasting effects on your health. To see a few individuals that have experienced this type of severe reaction, visit GetMyShot.org and learn how the flu shot can help protect you.
Racial Disparities in Flu Vaccination
Disparities in flu vaccination coverage exist among different racial and ethnic groups due to systemic racism. There are a lot of external factors that play into this and it is vital that public health and medical care systems work together to reduce the gaps that exist and build public trust in preventative health measures like vaccination.
Bottom Line, Flu Shots Work
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for more than 50 years, hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu shots. Flu shots help reduce our risk of hospitalizations, severe illness and even death.
It is the responsibility of everyone to help reduce the burden on our healthcare worker friends, family members, neighbors, and community members. The flu vaccine, wearing a mask, social distancing and hand-washing will be the best ways to protect yourself this flu season.
Bottom line—everyone 6 months and older should receive their flu shot! You can use the vaccine finder to find a flu shot near you.
Learn more about flu in people 50 and older with chronic health conditions at GetMyShot.org.
Blog last updated: October 16, 2020