Before Gathering with Loved Ones This Holiday Season, Help Fight the Flu
Dr. Michael Greenberg, Medical Head, Sanofi Pasteur North America
We still need to work together to help fight the flu, but the good news is, we have the tools to do it.
In a few weeks, in celebration of the holiday season, many of us may be gathering with loved ones in person for the first time since before the pandemic, thanks to vaccines that help make it safer to do so. This week, there has perhaps never been a timelier occasion to commemorate National Influenza Vaccination Week. Even though ideally everyone should be vaccinated against influenza by the end of October, we use National Influenza Vaccination Week to draw attention to the importance of the influenza vaccination and emphasize that it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine. In fact, getting the influenza vaccine before gathering with loved ones has perhaps never been more urgent than this year, as relaxed COVID-19 mitigation measures may lead to increased flu activity this season.
It’s important to remember that even if you are vaccinated against COVID-19, traveling, returning to the office or school, or gathering with those you love still present certain risks; help protect yourself against influenza with the flu vaccine. Nearly two years of social distancing and mask wearing has helped reduce influenza’s ability to spread, creating potential accumulation of susceptibility to infection. This has the potential to lead to a large outbreak.
As I have reminded my patients, flu vaccination is especially crucial to helping protect those most vulnerable to serious complications from it, including people with certain chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease. In the 2019-2020 flu season, for example, nine out of 10 adults hospitalized for flu had at least one reported underlying medical condition. Those at high risk for the flu who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 or the flu face the threat of infection from both viruses.
As a physician who has for decades been emphatically recommending the flu vaccine to patients and highlighting the way in which it can help them protect their loved ones, I know that no one likes the idea of putting the people they love at risk of getting sick.
As a husband and father who helps ensure my wife and kids get the flu shot, I know the influence people can have on their loved ones. By encouraging household vaccination, we all have the power to help increase vaccination rates and better support protection against the flu for us all.
Providers, meanwhile, also have an important role to play. They should keep in mind that the need to help protect others can be a powerful motivator for people to get vaccinated. Ahead of the holiday season, they can make strong flu vaccination recommendations – starting by reminding patients that the vaccine helps protect them and their loved ones.