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The Flu Can Kill You: “Get the Influenza Vaccine”, Health Department Urges

The NYC Health Department is reminding New Yorkers that everyone ages 6 months and older should get a seasonal flu vaccine. It is especially important for adults ages 50 and older, pregnant people, children ages 6 months to 5 years, and people with chronic diseases to be vaccinated. 

“As New Yorkers, we look out for each other,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “And there is no better way to look out for your fellow New Yorker – especially those most vulnerable to the flu such as infants, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly – than getting vaccinated against influenza.”  

“Getting yourself and your child vaccinated as early as possible can help protect both of you from flu-related illnesses, reduce school absences for your child, and prevent the virus from infecting other children and family members,” said ACS Commissioner David A. Hansell. “The Administration for Children’s Services joins the Health Department in urging all New Yorkers not to wait to get a flu shot this season.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the last flu season was the longest in 10 years, lasting from mid-November 2018 through to mid-April 2019. Although influenza activity is currently low, one influenza-related pediatric death outside of New York City has already been reported to the CDC. 

Despite the risk of severe illness, not enough adult New Yorkers are getting vaccinated. Last flu season, Health Department data showed that only 47% of people ages 18 and older received the influenza vaccination, while 74% of children under age 5 had been vaccinated. Disparities in flu vaccination coverage also persist. In 2018, only 50% of Black New Yorkers ages 65 and older were vaccinated, compared to 65% of Whites, 67% of Latinos and 73% of Asians in this age group. The Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2020 goal for flu vaccination coverage is 70%.

The flu vaccine is widely available for all New Yorkers, and serious reactions to the vaccine are extremely rare. The Health Department’s immunization clinic along with other City-run clinics and hospitals provide no or low-cost flu vaccines to patients and visitors. It is available at chain pharmacies, like CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Duane Reade, and independent pharmacies, many of which take most health insurance plans without charging a co-pay. Pharmacists can now vaccinate children as young as age 2. Check with your local pharmacy to confirm that they can vaccinate children and the age ranges they can serve. Many employers also provide onsite flu vaccines for their employees. New Yorkers can use the Health Department’s NYC Health Map or call 311.

The NYC Health Map also includes pharmacies that are enrolled in the federally-funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, which provides flu vaccines for VFC-eligible children (including those on Medicaid and children without insurance) at no cost, although an administration fee may be charged if the child does not have insurance. 

Influenza season usually starts in the late fall and lasts throughout the spring. Since influenza activity can be unpredictable and influenza viruses can be found year-round, it is important to get the vaccine as early as possible, though it is never too late to be vaccinated. A flu vaccine is necessary each year because the vaccine provides protection for only one season. This year’s flu vaccine contains two new virus strains.

Influenza-like symptoms 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 influenza and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Ways to reduce the spread of germs like influenza:

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people. 
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. 
  • If you are sick with influenza-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) 
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. 
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like influenza. 

“As the weather begins to get colder, it is important to consider getting vaccinated against the flu, especially if you might be at risk of complications,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo. “I am happy to partner with Health + Hospitals for another year to bring Staten Islanders free flu shots, which will be available on November 7th from 11am-2:30pm at Staten Island Borough Hall. Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself – as well as those around you – from this illness.”

 “To stay healthy during the annual flu season, you and your family should get a flu shot. Receiving the influenza vaccine protects you and all New Yorkers, especially elderly people and children who are particularly at risk,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee.

“The NYC Health Department alert about the importance of getting a flu vaccine is a timely and proactive. Vaccines against the flu have proven effective, and are widely available to New Yorkers at low or no cost. That’s why I got my flu shot, as I do every year,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried of Manhattan, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health.

“No one likes getting the flu but for many New Yorkers contracting influenza can be more than just a few days of missed work – it can be life-threatening,” said City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine. “It is vital that all New Yorkers get vaccinated against influenza as early in the flu season as possible to not only protect themselves from getting sick but to protect vulnerable people like infants and the elderly. The vaccine is widely available and it only takes a few minutes of your time to help prevent spreading the flu to vulnerable New Yorkers.”

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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