Massachusetts Public Health Officials Urge Flu and COVID-19 Vaccines as Flu Season Begins
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 14, 2022
CONTACT: Katheleen Conti – Katheleen.M.Conti@mass.gov
With flu season underway, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) urges residents to get a flu shot and receive a COVID-19 shot or booster for which are eligible.
October is an ideal time to get a flu shot before flu season reaches its peak. It is recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months get a yearly flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended that people over the age of 65 get a high dose flu vaccine this season. People can get their flu and COVID-19 shots at the same visit, even at many retail pharmacies. Both the COVID-19 and flu vaccines are safe and effective, and have been shown to reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
“Every flu season is different, and while it’s hard to predict severity, vaccination remains the best way for people to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities from the flu.” said Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke. “Now is also a good time for residents to get their COVID-19 vaccinations and an updated bivalent booster if they haven’t already, particularly those who are at higher risk of developing severe illness. This includes people with certain chronic health conditions.”
DPH began its statewide surveillance report for the 2022-2023 flu season the first week of October. Starting today, October 14, weekly data will be reported every Friday, including metrics that measure the severity of influenza-like illnesses, hospital visits, and influenza-related hospitalizations across Massachusetts. Since October 2, 96 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu have been reported in Massachusetts. Most people with influenza-like illness are not tested; therefore, the number of positive test results does not reflect the total number of influenza cases in Massachusetts.
Federal public health officials expect higher flu activity this season compared to previous years based on the large number of cases reported last winter in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Australia.
The flu can be very serious. Nearly every year in the United States, millions of people get the flu, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands die from flu-related illnesses. The most common flu symptoms They are fever, cough and sore throat. Symptoms can also include body aches, headaches, chills, runny nose, and fatigue.
Flu vaccination is especially important for people who are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu, such as those with a chronic respiratory condition, heart disease, a weakened immune system, or those who are pregnant. Because both the flu and COVID-19 are expected to be circulating this fall and may have similar symptoms, people with flu-like illnesses should get tested for both COVID and the flu.
COVID and flu vaccines are widely available to everyone over 6 months of age. Other actions people can take To help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19, include staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and practicing good hand hygiene.
“It’s important that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot annually, and even more so this year because the lack of infection in the last two flu seasons likely means there is less immunity to the flu than in previous years.” said Dr. Larry Madoff, Medical Director of the DPH Office of Infectious Diseases and Laboratory Sciences. “The flu shot and the COVID-19 shot or booster can be given during the same visit. We really urge people to get vaccinated to protect themselves, those around them, and to help prevent the circulation of the flu in addition to COVID, which could put a strain on our health care system.”
DPH has released a new seasonal flu public awareness campaign on television, online, and on billboards across the state encouraging residents to get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19 to keep themselves, their families, and the community healthy. People who have questions about receiving flu and COVID-19 vaccines during the same visit should speak with a health care provider. See more information on how to find a flu and/or COVID-19 vaccination site near you.
For more information on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, visit mass.gov/covid19. For more information about the flu, visit mass.gov/influenza or call your health care provider, local board of health, or MDPH at (617) 983-6800.