As Americans Consider Another Jab, Health District Touts ‘Three Actions To Fight The Flu’
A concerning report released October 12 by the American Heart Association indicates that around three out of five people surveyed may delay or skip getting a flu shot this year. This, despite warnings from health experts the influenza season could start early and be severe.
And with COVID-19 and its aggressive Delta variant still sickening state residents with numerous symptoms that mirror those of influenza, Newtown Health District Director Donna Culbert is working harder to help educate community members in the hope that everyone will immunize themselves in the coming weeks.
To that end, the Health District and its community partners encourage residents to “Take Three Actions to Fight the Flu.”
“Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious disease that can be serious,” Culbert told The Newtown Bee this week amid a series of flu and pneumonia vaccine clinics being hosted locally. “Every year millions of people get the flu which can lead to serious illness, hospitalization, and even death. Residents are urged to that the following actions to protect yourself and others from the flu.”
The three actions Culbert is urging residents to take are:
Get Yourself and Your Family Vaccinated. A yearly flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Everyone 6 months or older should get an annual flu vaccine. Protect Yourself. Protect Your Family. Get Vaccinated.
Stop the Spread. Take everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of flu viruses. Avoid close contact with sick people, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, cover your coughs and sneezes, wash your hand often (with soap and water).
Ask Your Doctor About Flu Antivirals — Take antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. Antiviral drugs can be used to treat flu illness and can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick.
The Newtown Health District has been coordinating with RVNA and the Newtown Visiting Nurse Association to bring flu shots to the community. “Flu vaccination is readily available,” Culbert said, “so please take advantage of one of the many convenient opportunities.”
Several clinics have been held, and the next round of clinics is scheduled for Thursday, November 4, from 10 am to noon at the Newtown Municipal Center, and Saturday, November 13, from 10 am to 1 pm at the Newtown Middle School on Queen Street.
Other options include:
*Your own health care provider;
*RVNA — details can be found at its website, rvnahealth.org/services/be-well/flu-shots, or call 203-438-5555, ext 3;
*Pomperaug Health District, details at www.pddh.org/programs/flu-clinics.php or call 203-264-9616 ext. 0; and
*Local pharmacies, including CVS, Walgreens, and Stop & Shop.
While telegraphing the concerning news regarding the number of people weighing the relevance of getting their flu vaccine, the Heart Association online survey of 1,000 US adults by Wakefield Research showed almost all (98%) of those who got the flu shot for the 2020-21 flu season said they plan to get vaccinated again this year.
“If there has ever been a year to prioritize getting your flu shot at the beginning of the season, this is it,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, FAHA, volunteer president of the American Heart Association. “The flu will be back this year, and getting the flu vaccine as soon as possible will offer the most protection for you and your loved ones.”
While 82% of those surveyed said they are thinking more about their health due to COVID-19, only 26% said COVID-19 is making them more likely to get the jab this year. Hispanic respondents were more likely to say COVID-19 had an impact on their flu shot decision (57%) compared to non-Hispanic respondents (38%).
With COVID-19 still stressing many community hospitals, Lloyd-Jones, an epidemiologist and chair of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, emphasized that getting the flu vaccination will help prevent a “twin-demic” in addition to reducing the chances of patients facing a “one-two punch” of severe flu and severe COVID-19 together or back-to-back.
Even without COVID-19 on the scene, influenza and its counterpart pneumonia regularly rank among the top ten causes of death in the United States and can be especially risky for certain populations.
During the 2018-19 flu season, more than nine in ten (93%) of adults hospitalized with influenza reported at least one underlying medical condition, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or obesity. Heart disease is one of the most common chronic (long-term) conditions among adults hospitalized with the flu — accounting for about half of all flu hospitalizations.
“We recommend the flu shot for essentially everyone and particularly people who might be vulnerable because they have chronic health conditions — things like diabetes, high blood pressure,or obesity — as well as people who are likely to be extra exposed, like health care workers, and people who are working in an essential front-line job where they come into contact with a lot of different people,” Lloyd-Jones said.
Say ‘Boo’ To Flu
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting vaccinated against the flu by Halloween, October 31, for the best seasonal protection and recommends the influenza vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older, with few exceptions.
The American Heart Association’s new survey also identified a significant knowledge gap when it comes to the flu shot, with an overwhelming majority (94%) of Americans incorrectly answering at least one of eight questions about it.
Younger generations were less informed than their older counterparts, with 83% of Gen Zers (18-24) getting at least two of these questions incorrect, compared to 67% of both Millennials (25-40) and Gen Xers (41-56), and 58% of Baby Boomers (57-75).
Among all respondents, 73% know you cannot get the flu from the flu shot and 88% know you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot at the same time.
Lloyd-Jones emphasized that flu vaccination is for you, even if you do not consider yourself at high risk for serious complications.
“The flu virus is going to have an easier time spreading this year with more people out and about at school, church, sporting events, and so on. It’s incredibly important for you to get the flu vaccine this year and make sure you and your loved ones are protected,” he said.
The flu shot is easy to get at places like a doctor’s office, neighborhood pharmacy, or community clinic, like a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). The COVID-19 vaccine is also available at these places, and both can be given at the same time, according to the CDC.