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Health officials urge Americans to get the flu vaccine as a concern beyond possible ‘twindemik’

At the annual news conference on the Influenza / Pneumococcal Disease news conference on Thursday, delivered by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, urged public health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the public to follow the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all to be vaccinated against the flu

“Everyone, who is 6 years of age or older, should get the annual flu vaccine,”

; Fauci insisted.

“Influenza, alone, is a serious viral infection, causing hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations each year, with major complications of pneumonia, and thousands of deaths,” Drs. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told ABC News.

Only 48% of adults in the United States were vaccinated against the flu during 2019-2020, leading to 38 million flu-related illnesses, 18 million flu-related visits, 400,000 flu hospitals and 22,000 deaths of the flu, according to CDC estimates.

“We are at the greatest risk of becoming seriously ill,” Fauci said during the conference. “It is our personal responsibility to protect ourselves. But we also have a responsibility to protect the vulnerable around us, including young children, pregnant women, the elderly, 65 years of age and older and the underlying chronic health conditions. “

“First, get vaccinated,” he continued, “and take daily actions to prevent the spread of germs.”

Vaccine vaccination is a major public health issue in America, but vaccines are the most effective tool in the fight against infectious diseases. Last year, the flu vaccine prevented 7.5 million flu-related illnesses, 3.7 million flu-related visits, 105,000 flu hospitals and 6,300 flu deaths, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

The flu vaccine is not 100% effective, so it may be possible for some people to get vaccinated and get the flu. However, getting the vaccine makes the flu symptoms worse than before if you don’t get a shot.

“Every year, we show that people who have been vaccinated, and run the risk of getting the flu, are more likely to go to the emergency room, more likely to be hospitalized, more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit. And more likely they will die, “Schaffner said.

Despite these statistics, a new survey, released Thursday by NFID, revealed that only 59% of adults in the United States said they plan to get vaccinated against the flu during the 2020-2021 flu season. Fifteen percent said they were unsure, while 22% were at high risk for flu-related complications (such as those aged 65 and over, smokers, those with diabetes, asthma, heart disease or illness in stone) said they did not plan to be vaccinated

These low numbers are alarming for public health officials, with hospitals in the United States strengthening themselves for a potential outbreak of severe influenza and COVID-19 patients.

“Now more than ever, flu vaccination is critical to not only protect individuals and communities, but also to reduce the flu burden on our health care system as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. said Marla Dalton, executive director of NFID and chief executive officer.

In fact, 46% of U.S. adults are concerned about co-infections, according to the survey, with 28% reporting that the COVID-19 pandemic makes them more likely to be vaccinated against flu this year.

“The scary fact is we can face a twindemic of COVID-19,” Schaffner said. And it will be difficult for physicians and other health care providers to tell the difference between diseases, based on symptoms alone.

There have been several reports of joint cases of influenza and COVID-19, Schaffner said, but there is not enough data about it yet. However, “patients where it is reported are often hospitalized. So, if you get a double infection, you will get worse. Who wants to be infected with two respiratory viruses at the same time?”

Cardiologist Dr. Frederico Asch, of the American College of Cardiology, noted that this year he is particularly concerned about the elderly, and those with chronic health conditions, who have a higher risk of complications from both the flu and COVID- 19.

In recent years, adults aged 65 and older have reached between 50% to 70% of hospital-related flu

Last year, nearly 93% of adults in the United States who were hospitalized for flu-related complications had at least one built-in medical condition, Asch said. “Having worked in the cardiac care unit for many years, I have seen some of the worst flu complications, including myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, which can result in heart failure and abnormal rhythms,” he said. aniya.

According to the CDC, the vaccination rate for adults 18 to 49 years of age with at least one chronic health condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, overweight and chronic lung disease, is Only 44% in the previous flu season.

“The flu can exacerbate underlying conditions and lead to life-threatening complications, such as heart attack, stroke, permanent physical decline, pneumonia, hospitalization. Elderly people with heart disease are in six times higher risk of having a heart attack within seven days of influenza infection, “Asch said.

Vaccines have been shown to lower heart arrest rates in people with heart disease, and to reduce admission for stroke or heart failure, while reducing mortality rates in Type adults 2 diabetes.

Further, racial variations continue to affect flu vaccination rates. White individuals had a higher risk of flu vaccine at 55%, compared to Black (46%) and Hispanic (47%) individuals. Although Black adults were more concerned about co-infection with COVID-19 and the flu than white and Hispanic adults, nearly 62% said they were unsure, or had not planned get the flu vaccine this year, according to the survey.

“We need to increase the number of people vaccinated and targeted especially in colored communities, which often carry a disproportionate burden of severe flu,” said Daniel B. Jernigan, director of the National Influenza Division Center for Immunization and Respiratory CDC Diseases.

In addition, for children, “we know that flu vaccination is critical, because it can significantly reduce the risk of a child’s death,” Drs. Patricia Whitley-Williams, professor of pediatrics, and head of the Division of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University.

“In this particular year, we need to continue to focus on increasing vaccination rates in children and those at higher risk of serious complications from the flu and COVID-19, including Black and Hispanic populations. , “he said.

During the 2019-2020 flu season, 188 U.S. children died from flu-related causes, according to Whitley-Williams.

There is hope, if we look at countries like Australia and New Zealand, Schaffner said. They report a significantly lower number of flu cases this year, which they attribute to “more flu vaccines than they have ever experienced,” in addition to keeping distance and wearing a mask.

“I hope we can promote that here,” Schaffner said. “But here, we do not receive the vaccines we want, and we certainly do not have a complete commitment on the part of our population to wear masks. So, I do not think we are going to have the advantages of the Aussies. But, however, we are out there trying to get as much flu vaccine as possible. “

ABC News Dr. Leah Croll contributed to this report

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