Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus known as the common flu used to get a lot of press when the weather started to turn cold.
However, during the last two fall and winter seasons, the public health discussion has been almost all about the coronavirus.
Now, with pandemic concerns dropping, state health officials are once again asking North Carolina residents to be sure they don’t forget that the flu is still a dangerous virus that can kill – and that it’s on the upswing at this time of year.
Public health officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) stated recently that they’ve seen a decrease in flu vaccinations compared with those given in previous years and they’re urging North Carolinians who are six months of age and older to get their flu shot before Halloween – “before the end of October” as they put it.
That’s because the flu season in this state typically peaks in the winter months and the disease is still a major concern even if much of the publicity still goes to COVID-19.
NCDHHS State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth Tilson said the flu vaccine can help you defend yourself against other threats as well.
“A flu vaccine is important to protect you not only from the virus but also to protect your overall immune system as COVID-19 continues to spread,” she stated in a press release. “Get your annual flu vaccine to prevent severe illness and more serious outcomes.”
According to state health officials, it’s especially important for anyone with a higher risk of complications to get vaccinated for the flu. That group includes “people 65 and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.”
While the coronavirus vaccines are new, flu vaccinations have been around for a very long time, so it’s likely people will have fewer worries this year about flu vaccinations when compared with the adamant COVID-19 vaccine concerns that became so widely publicized during the pandemic.
According to estimates from the state, during the 2019-2020 flu season, flu vaccines prevented about 7.5 million flu illnesses, 3.7 million medical visits, 105,000 hospitalizations and around 63,000 flu deaths across the United States.
North Carolina health officials say the flu vaccines are “safe and effective” and they point out that flu vaccines are frequently available at little or no cost through pharmacies, county health departments, doctor’s offices and other providers.
North Carolina residents can contact their health provider or visit vaccinefinder.org to find nearby locations where flu vaccines are available.
NCDHHS has launched a public information campaign to make people aware of the health risks associated with the flu as well as to encourage annual flu vaccination across the state.
The latest resources, guidance, answers to frequently asked questions and sharable materials can be found at MySpot.nc.gov/flu.