It’s time for New Yorkers to plan when and where they will get their vaccine — not the coronavirus vaccine, which is still being developed — the flu vaccine.
City officials expect the first shipment of this year's flu vaccine to arrive in mid- to late-August.
“This is the year that getting a flu shot counts even more,” said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, commissioner of the city health department.
What You Need To Know
- Officials: About 1 out of every 2 New Yorkers get flu vaccine. The goal is a 70% this year.
- Flu vaccine will help conserve health care resources needed for COVID-19 patients
- NYC expects first shipment of flu vaccines in mid- to late-August
Public health experts say the pandemic offers two new reasons to get a flu shot. First, is that early symptoms of both the flu and COVID-19 are similar — fever, aches, a cough.
“Because they are hard to distinguish clinically, it makes it more important to do whatever your can to prevent the flu,” explained Dr. Edward Chapnick, director of infectious diseases at Maimonides Medical Center. “It will certainly help sort out what is causing an illness if you develop an illness.”
There is also a need to conserve health care resources, which means preventing as many New Yorkers as possible from being hospitalized with the flu, so beds can be saved for people battling COVID-19 in the event of a second spike.
Last flu season, more than 22,000 people with the flu were hospitalized across the city and state.
“The thing that keeps me up at night is that not a lot of New Yorkers get the flu shot, we end up having a bad flu season on top of a second wave and I don’t want us — we have as a city worked too hard to get to where we are,” said Barbot.
According to the city health department, nearly 1 out of every 2 New Yorkers gets the flu vaccine. But this year, it is aiming higher, hoping to get around 70 percent. The strategy is to partner with community leaders that will share the message that flu vaccines are safe and effective.
“Now, if your definition of effective is 100 percent, well, it is certainly not 100 percent effective,” explained Chapnick. “In most years, it is somewhere around 50 percent, and its been a while since I took basic arithmetic, but I think the number 50 is a lot higher than the number 0.”
“What’s the downside?” added Dr. Miriam Smith, chief of the medicine department at LIJ Forest Hills. “Other than local discomfort at the site of the injection, there’s no downside to get a vaccine. It is strongly encouraged.”
New Yorkers should start getting the flu vaccine as soon as it is available in August, says Barbot.
Anyone can find a vaccination location using the NYC Health Map on the city’s website.
Main story image: LM Otero, File/AP.