Signs are that this year’s flu season will be more severe than usual. As a result, public health officials are urging all Americans to get their flu vaccinations before fall and winter are here.
The officials are advising everyone of any age to be vaccinated, but they are focusing in particular on people with weakened immune systems and those who are over 65.
Warning signsRead More »
• A steep rise in cases of flu in the southern hemisphere this year, where winter is now in full swing. A severe flu season in the south often is followed by an equally acute season in the northern hemisphere.
• The relaxing of restrictions this year that were imposed in the last two winters as a result of COVID-19.
Cases of flu and resulting deaths from the illness were at lower levels over the last two winter seasons. A major reason was that the protections that were instituted for COVID-19—such as lockdowns, masks and social distancing—also helped to protect people from contracting the flu.
Now those restrictions have been lifted in most parts of the country and medical professionals fear that flu will not only return to pre-pandemic levels, but potentially will also be worse once fall arrives and flu season starts.
In addition to these warning signs, another reason that health officials are mounting a campaign to urge people to get vaccinated is that vaccine fatigue might have set in following the constant urging that people should get vaccinated that took place during the pandemic. People were encouraged not only to receive initial COVID-19 vaccinations but also to obtain as many as three or even four booster shots.
By partnering with healthcare providers and organizations, global healthcare company Sanofi hopes to combat this complacency, says Dr. Michael Greenberg, head of vaccines for North America for Sanofi. These people might not realize the severe complications that can result from a flu infection and might be unaware that vaccines can help to prevent them occurring, he says.
The officials who are urging Americans to be vaccinated for the flu took part in a recent virtual discussion initiated by Sanofi. They are from the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the National Minority Quality Forum.
Medical professionals also are aware that whereas anyone can contract the flu, some people are at increased risk for developing serious complications, points out Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association. Among them are those who are suffering from chronic medical conditions such as COPD, asthma, and other lung diseases.
The flu can be deadly, Rizzo adds. For that reason, all those eligible people aged six months or older are urged to get a flu shot every year.
Age is Significant
While everyone is urged to become vaccinated, the panel members point out that age can be a significant factor when complications result from contracting the flu. A study that looked at the effectiveness of flu vaccines for adults aged over 18 from 2012 to 2015 found that patients who were vaccinated were almost 60% less likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit than those who were not vaccinated. Certain flu vaccines can be more effective for people who are over 65, according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises the Centers for Disease Control.
The flu shot has been proven to be cost-effective and practical, says Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association. Everyone can benefit from having the shot, especially those suffering from heart disease and seniors.
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