Concerns rise as coronavirus, flu season overlap
For some, it may be hard to recognize which symptoms go with each illness
The number of New York City adults and kids getting flu shots has skyrocketed this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to new data released Wednesday.
Adults who received the flu vaccine surged 37 percent from July 1 through Oct. 24 this year compared to the same period last year, the city Health Department reports.
That’s a total of 706,693 adults who’ve been vaccinated – an increase of 189,017 residents from last year.
Meanwhile, the number of children age 6 months to 18 who’ve been vaccinated jumped 27 percent.
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That’s an increase of 105,881 children who’ve been vaccinated — from 397,626 last season to 503,507 this season.
City health officials emphasize it’s especially important for adults 50 years and older, pregnant people, children 6 months to 5 years old, and people with underlying conditions to get vaccinated.
Like COVID-19, the flu can be deadly, officials said.
Recent national statistics show that the number of flu fatalities has plummeted, but the reason is not something to cheer – possibly because the elderly and others with serious underlying medical conditions had died from COVID-19.
The city Health Department has waged a public and media awareness campaign to boost flu vaccination rates during the pandemic.
“This promising progress is only possible because New Yorkers are looking out for one another and doing the right thing by getting their flu vaccines,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi.
“This year could be the most important flu vaccine you ever get. Now is the perfect time to get the vaccine if you haven’t yet. Our friends, families and neighbors are counting on all of us to help keep each other safe.”
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Flu-like symptoms are similar to COVID-19 and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people, especially children, may have vomiting and diarrhea.
People may also be infected with flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
“The steps New Yorkers take to prevent COVID-19 are also applicable to the flu. Face coverings, frequent hand washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available, distancing and staying home if ill can prevent the spread of flu,” the department said in a release.
The flu vaccine is widely available at little or no cost, covered by most health insurance plans without a co-pay.
It can be obtained from a primary care doctor, community health centers, hospital clinics and pharmacies.
New Yorkers can use the Health Department’s NYC Health Map, call 311, or text FLU to 877-877 to find a flu vaccination location. There are over 870 sites listed on Health Map. The Health Department also provides a list of community flu vaccination events at nyc.gov/flu.
SHOULD YOU GET THE FLU SHOT? WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE 2020-21 FLU SEASON
Flu season usually starts in the late fall and lasts throughout the spring.
A flu vaccine is necessary each year because it provides protection for only one season. This year’s flu vaccine contains four virus strains, three of which are new this year.
“As the COVID pandemic continues, it’s important for New Yorkers to remember to also protect themselves from other communicable diseases like the flu,” said Richard Gottfried, chairman of the state Assembly Health Committee.
“It’s encouraging that this year’s city Health Department data shows that more New Yorkers are getting their seasonal flu shots earlier, as I did myself,” he said.
Manufacturers are still fine-tuning a vaccine for COVID-19. If history is any guide, there could be early resistance to getting vaccinated.
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