Lincoln – If you’re older than 6 months and haven’t yet received a flu shot, it’s not too late – and never, due to the pandemic, has it been more important. Since COVID-19 and flu could spread simultaneously this winter, flu vaccines will be an important aid in preserving hospital capacity until COVID-19 vaccines are widely available. Get your flu shot until you can get your COVID-19 vaccine.
National Influenza Vaccination Week, which is being observed December 6th to 12th, is a nationwide call to action to encourage those who have not already done so to get their annual flu shot. Every year, flu is responsible for millions of illnesses, tens of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that during the 2019-2020 flu season, vaccinations prevented 7.52 million illnesses, 3.69 million medical visits, 105,000 hospitalizations and 6,300 deaths due to influenza. Last flu season, 9 out of 10 adults hospitalized with flu had at least one reported underlying medical condition.
If you are living with certain chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or asthma, you are at higher risk of developing serious complications from flu, like pneumonia, bronchitis, and other illnesses that can lead to hospitalization or even death. Even if your chronic condition is well-controlled, flu can make your condition worse — it can trigger asthma attacks, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, and make your blood sugar harder to manage. Flu vaccination is recommended to protect you from severe flu-related illness and help keep your chronic condition under control.
According to the CDC, efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as campaigns to stay at home, have led to decreased use of routine preventative services, including immunization services. Ensuring that people continue or start getting routine vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential for protecting people and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks, including flu. Routine vaccination prevents illnesses that lead to unnecessary medical visits and hospitalizations, which further strain the healthcare system.
While flu vaccines are important for everyone older than 6 months, several groups are especially urged to get vaccinated if they have not already done so:
- Essential workers, including healthcare personnel (including nursing home, long-term care facility, and pharmacy staff) and other critical infrastructure workforce.
- Persons at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including adults aged 65 years and older, residents in a nursing home or long-term care facility, and persons of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions.
- Persons at increased risk for serious complications, Including infants and young children, children with neurologic conditions, pregnant women, adults aged 65 years and older, and other persons with certain underlying medical conditions.
Your primary care provider or a local pharmacy or big-box store – in Nebraska, providers include CVS, Walgreens, HyVee and Walmart – can administer the flu vaccine. In most cases, flu shots are covered 100 percent by insurance. To find a location near you, visit vaccinefinder.org or https://www.cdc.gov/flu/