Flu shot/health/vaccination (224085)
Flu shot/health/vaccination Credit: Public Domain/CDC/Judy Schmidt/Public Health Image Library

In observance of National Influenza Vaccination Week, NYC Health + Hospitals continues to urge New Yorkers to get a flu vaccine, which are available at more than 60 patient care sites across the five boroughs. The CDC recommends everyone age six months and older get a vaccination to protect against the flu. Protection against the flu is not fully effective for up to two weeks after getting vaccinated, so delaying vaccination may put individuals and those around them at risk of serious illness. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the flu shot is critical to get this year to help reduce the risks associated from the flu and further fight against a potential co-infection of the coronavirus and influenza viruses. NYC Health + Hospitals is working closely with the NYS Department of Health, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and NYC Office of Emergency Management to ensure all enhanced infection control measures are taken during the 2020-2021 flu season. New Yorkers can call 844-NYC-4NYC for an appointment at an NYC Health + Hospitals facility nearby to schedule their flu shot.

“As COVID-19 continues to pose a threat to our communities, it is critical for New Yorkers to get their flu vaccine this year,” said Machelle Allen, MD, chief medical officer of NYC Health + Hospitals. “Before, we were taught that the flu shot was the best defense against getting the flu and reducing the risks associated from it. This year, the stakes are much higher. Getting the flu shot can help prevent you or your loved ones from also potentially contracting both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Let’s all do our parts, get our flu shots, and continue to make our communities healthier and safer for the most vulnerable.”

The flu is a serious, highly contagious, and sometimes deadly disease, and the severity of each season is unpredictable, making annual vaccination the best defense against illness. Most New Yorkers will only experience mild discomfort at the injection site on their upper arm. Flu virus can last from about October through May.

It is still unclear to health experts what impact the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can have on the upcoming influenza season in the United States. However, it is anticipated that the two viruses may co-circulate and individuals could potentially contract both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu at the same time. Social distancing and other preventive measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 may also have an impact on the spread of influenza viruses.

NYC Health + Hospitals care sites offering flu vaccines have enhanced infection control measures being implemented to ensure exposure to either viruses are avoided. Measures include:

-Screening all personnel (patients, visitors, staff) at point-of-entry for COVID-19 symptoms before entry to facilities;

-Ensuring six-feet distance with floor decals in designated areas on-site where flu vaccines are provided to patients; and

-Hygiene stations throughout the facility with tissue, hand sanitizer and signage on universal face mask and cough etiquette.

According to the CDC, there are many benefits from getting the flu vaccine, including reducing hospitalization for children, working age adults and older adults. As reported by the CDC, the overall estimated effectiveness of the 2019-2020 seasonal influenza vaccine for preventing medically attended, laboratory-confirmed influenza virus infection was 45%. While flu vaccine effectiveness can vary every year, there are still benefits of getting vaccinated.

The flu vaccination is especially recommended for those at risk of developing influenza-related complications. Those at risk include: children under five, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart or lung disease, and those over 65 years of age. Health care workers and people who live or work with people at high risk of influenza complications also need a flu vaccine to avoid infecting others.

All NYC Health + Hospitals facilities offer flu vaccination at no charge for patients, visitors and staff. Find a location near you at https://www.nychealthandhospitals.org/locations and read the health system’s facts on fighting the flu at https://www.nychealthandhospitals.org/services/flu-vaccination/. The vaccine is also widely available at commercial pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and city clinics, and is typically free or covered by a co-pay.