MONTGOMERY, Ala. – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues this fall, the Alabama Hospital Association, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) have joined forces to urge Alabamians to get vaccinated for the flu. They note that with the additional impact of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot and to get it early.
“Yearly influenza vaccination of all persons 6 months of age and older is the best way to protect yourself and your family from potentially serious complications,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. “Sadly, last year only half of Americans got the vaccination, and more than 400,000 were hospitalized for the flu. Getting vaccinated is easy and can lower the risk of the flu, doctors’ visits, hospitalization and even death. The vaccine also reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke among high-risk groups.”
To remind the public of the importance of flu shots and to dispel some myths, the organizations will be hosting Flu Fact Fridays on their social media accounts.
“One of the myths is that healthy people don’t need the flu vaccine,” said President of the Medical Association, Dr. John Meigs. “While the highest risk is for those with underlying conditions, we’ve lost thousands of healthy adults and children each year to flu, so that’s a myth we need to address right away.”
An influenza vaccination will not prevent COVID-19, but it is the best way to minimize the risk of flu. “It is important that we minimize concurrent outbreaks of flu and COVID-19,” said Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association. “Every flu season can be unpredictable, but this year is especially complicated with the pandemic. We need to do everything we can to keep our hospitals and other healthcare providers from being stretched to capacity as they care for COVID-19 patients and other patients.”
The three groups stress that while the flu and COVID-19 are different infections, they share many of the same symptoms – fever, headache, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue. These similarities may make illnesses more difficult to diagnose and treat. Getting a flu vaccine will reduce the chances of possible misdiagnoses and of getting both diseases at the same time.
For high-risk persons, vaccination is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. People at high risk include young children, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions. People 65 years and older are also at higher risk from COVID-19. For more information about flu vaccine, please see the Influenza Fast Fact Flier at www.alabamapublichealth.gov/immunization/assets/influenza_disease_and_vac_flyer.pdf.
Influenza vaccination also is important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for people at higher risk to keep from spreading flu to them. This is especially true for people who work in long-term care facilities, which are home to many of the people most vulnerable to flu and COVID-19. People who care for infants younger than 6 months should be vaccinated.
Contact your private physician, pharmacy or local county health department for a flu clinic schedule. To find a local provider who offers adult flu vaccine, please review the Adult Immunization Provider web page (www.alabamapublichealth.gov/immunization/adult-immunization-providers.html). The more people protected from influenza, the more health care resources will be available during the COVID-19 pandemic.