If this was a normal year, late September would be a good time to offer a light reminder to the public about getting a flu shot.
Doing so helps reduce avoidable strain on hospital emergency departments, helps kids stay in school, parents stay at work, and in the most severe cases, saves lives for people most susceptible to the virus.
But this is 2020.
So even something as routine as an annual flu shot reminder takes on heightened importance.
With the COVID-19 pandemic as stubborn as ever (Europe is experiencing a wave of COVID-19 resurgence), and a vaccine not expected until mid-2021, reducing the impact of influenza in California is one of the most direct ways to ensure the state’s health care system is not unnecessarily overburdened. Flu vaccines in particular are important because the symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza are very similar. Patients who have the flu may have to be treated as persons under investigation, sapping PPE and other scarce resources even faster.
That’s why we’ve partnered with multiple organizations – the California Department of Public Health, the California Medical Association, the California Association of Health Facilities, and many more, to create www.fightflutogether.org. The website offers basic information on flu vaccines and a handy flu vaccine locator run by the CDC.
The website launched today, with a media call where I was joined by California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and Vice-Speaker of the California Medical Association’s House of Delegates Dr. Jack Chou.
In addition, multiple media outlets throughout the state are expected to advance a public service announcement we developed about the importance of getting a flu shot, and there will be significant social media amplification in the coming months, as well as earned media efforts.
Last year, less than two-thirds of California’s children and just 43% of adult Californians were vaccinated against the flu.
We can, and must, do better. COVID-19 demands that we do.