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Illinois health officials have once again made it clear just how important it is to get a flu shot as we head into winter. Officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health have once more reiterated their plea this week for everyone to get a flu shot because of the uncertainty remaining over what will happen with COVID-19 in the coming months.
Aside from the pandemic, there are millions of Americans who are killed each year by influenza, and the flu shot is a highly effective way to prevent this.
Health officials released this statement about the flu shot, using important statistics to highlight just why we need to look after ourselves;
“This season, in addition to flu, we are battling COVID-19. We have already seen almost 7 million Americans confirmed with COVID-19, hundreds of thousands hospitalized, and more than 200,000 deaths.”
Some concern exists around whether or not people will take the flu shot. At the root of this concern is that, with so much confusion around COVID-19, people weren’t sure where that left the effectiveness of the flu shot.
Simply because influenza and COVID-19 are similar given that they are both viruses that attack the respiratory system, in practice, they are very different. Illinois Department of Public Health Director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike has been keen to stress this point:
“Flu and COVID-19 each can cause serious respiratory illness and co-infection could possibly lead to more severe illnesses, hospitalization, and even death,” Ezike said. “While a vaccine for COVID-19 is still in development, a vaccine for flu already exists and is your best protection against flu.”
“The choice is yours, but I urge you to not risk co-infection of two potentially deadly viruses. Please try and protect yourself and the people around you by getting the flu vaccine, which has been proven over the years to be safe and effective.”
Ezike makes a very important point: the risk of being infected with both viruses at the same time could be deadly. Furthermore, those who have had COVID-19 and recovered, face further problems if they then contract influenza. We have seen, in many cases, that the damage caused by COVID-19 can be long-lasting, making the symptoms of influenza far worse.
Although society has been battling influenza for a very long time, given what we have learned so far, we can have a more optimistic approach about a vaccine. For example, we broke the story in 2018 that a new vaccine, the first in two decades, had been created for influenza.
Whilst the viruses are very different, we have discovered ways of working and testing which will be of great benefit in our desire to find a solution for COVID-19.
The flu shot is available for everyone and it is recommended that all those who are able to take it to do so. It is not obligatory, but it is a smart decision to make. We have to focus especially on those who are most at risk.
These include, but are not limited to those over the age of sixty, pregnant women, children under the age of two, and people with preexisting health conditions. However, the flu shot is open to anyone who wishes to have it.
There has been some talk about those in black and Latino communities having the shot too. We reported here that COVID-19 seems to be affecting these communities worse than white communities. This has nothing to do with genetics; it is entirely a matter of socio-economic situations. If you are in these communities, then be safe and get the vaccine against the flu.
Speak with your physician, or head to a community medical center and reserve your slot for a vaccination, do it before the colder months come and you can ensure protection.