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Medical, health groups encourage Alabamians to get flu shots

By Will Whatley, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – With the start of the flu season now upon us, some of the state’s leading medical and health organizations are calling on Alabamians to get a flu shot.

On Tuesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama Hospital Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, and the Medical Association of the State of Alabama all issued statements stressing the importance of getting an influenza vaccination.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seasonal influenza is a year-round illness, but cases often increase in October and peak between December and February. But with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, staving off the flu becomes especially imperative, the groups said.

“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses, like the flu, this fall and winter is more important than ever,” said Koko Mackin of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. “Flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the healthcare system and conserve limited medical resources for the care of COVID-19 patients.”

In a separate statement, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris also stressed the importance of Alabamians getting the vaccine.

“Yearly influenza vaccination of all persons 6 months of age and older is the best way to protect yourself and your family from potentially serious complications,” said Harris. “Sadly, last year only half of Americans got the vaccination, and more than 400,000 were hospitalized for the flu. Getting vaccinated is easy and can lower the risk of the flu, doctors’ visits, hospitalization and even death. The vaccine also reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke among high-risk groups.”

Joining Harris in a statement released Tuesday was Medical Association of the State of Alabama President Dr. John Meigs who also spelled out the troubles caused by the flu.

“One of the myths is that healthy people don’t need the flu vaccine,” said Medical Association of the State of Alabama President Dr. John Meigs. “While the highest risk is for those with underlying conditions, we’ve lost thousands of healthy adults and children each year to flu, so that’s a myth we need to address right away.”

To remind the public of the importance of flu shots and to dispel some myths, the organizations will be hosting Flu Fact Fridays on their social media accounts according to the joint release by ADPH, MASA and AlaHA. Alabamians are strongly encouraged to contact their private physician, pharmacy or local county health department to schedule an appointment to receive their flu shot.

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