Local health leaders urge people to get flu shots, says this season may be harsh

Health

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– Local health leaders are reminding people to get protection from another virus in addition to COVID-19.

Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Coordinator, attended Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s weekly briefing Tuesday where he spoke about the flu vaccine.

As we approach flu season, Avula is encouraging everyone to get the flu shot.

“We have forgotten about the flu because we barely had any last year which is incredible,” he said.

Avula said mask-wearing, social distancing and lockdowns made the flu less prevalent in communities across the world but this year could look different.

“We may be in for a harsher flu season this year,” he said.

Avula mentioned two reasons why the low number of flu cases last year could make this season more challenging.

He said many folks didn’t get the opportunity last year to build immunity to the virus; whether it was by getting infected with the flu or receiving the shot.

He said the second issue is that scientists had a smaller number of cases to evaluate dominant strains and formulate a new vaccine.

“The flu vaccine is new every year because they look at the strains that have been dominant the year before and then they make a formulation,” Avula said. “Because we had so little flu, that didn’t happen and so scientists are uncertain at how good a match this year’s flu vaccine may be.”

Though he’s uncertain about the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine, Avula said in previous years the shots proved to be about 70% effective.

He said the best chance to get the most protection from COVID-19 and the flu– is to get vaccinated.

“Flu is one of the top 10 causes of death in this country every single year,” he said.

The CDC said the COVID-19 and the flu vaccines can be administered together.

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