New York City officials have launched a campaign exhorting New Yorkers to get flu shots this year, in hopes of avoiding a "twin pandemic" with both the seasonal flu and COVID-19.
"Just go get that flu shot," Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press conference this week. "It only takes a few minutes. It's easy. It's quick. Make sure the people in your life know how important it is. This is something we can do to protect all of us and to move us forward."
"This year's flu vaccine could be the most important one that you ever get," says NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, noting that the flu is very serious, even fatal, in non-pandemic years. "We don't want the health care system to expend time and resources on preventable illnesses even as they continue to handle COVID cases."
Many symptoms of the flu are similar to the coronavirus—fever, chills, aches, sore throat—which may cause some confusion this season.
The Department of Health says the vaccine is also considered "especially important for adults ages 50 and older, pregnant people, children ages 6 months to 5 years, and people with chronic diseases."
According to the NYC DOH, while 77% of children between 6 and 59 months typically get the flu vaccine, "rates drop off among older populations... [and] coverage for children aged 5 through 18 years was 48% according to Citywide Immunization data." Further, the DOH's survey data from the previous flu season found that vaccination coverage "is only 48%, with disparities among racial and ethnic groups for adults 18 and older. From our 2019 data, Black adults reported lower coverage at 43%, Hispanic adults were at 49%, White adults were at 51% and Asian/Pacific Islanders were at 49%."
You can find locations to get your flu shot here, or call 311, or text FLU to 877-877 to find a flu vaccination.
As always, the DOH recommends following common sense to reduce the spread of the flu, like avoiding contact with sick people; staying home with a flu-like illness; covering your nose and mouth with tissue when you cough and sneeze.
And on that note, there is some hope this year, due to distancing, hand hygiene and mask compliance in place for coronavirus, Australia just saw a "record low" flu season, as did other countries in the Southern Hemisphere. Some health officials believe it may be low in the United States—if people continue these practices and get the vaccine.