IU and state health officials said students and fellow Hoosiers should get their flu shots to combat the pandemic and the approaching influenza season.
According to USA Today, a survey revealed 40% of Amercians are not sure or are not planning on getting a flu shot this year. This percentage is down significantly compared to the 51.8% of people six months and older that got vaccinated against the flu last season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The healthcare system could potentially see a surge of both coronavirus and flu infections if people do not continue to get their vaccinations, Shandy Dearth, IUPUI director of undergraduate epidemiology education, said.
This increase in both cases could be attributed to the lack of COVID-19 protocols in place, which is unlike last flu season when these measures were in full effect, Dearth said.
The concern among the public health community is that a more severe flu season could be on the way due to a lack of collective immunity against the flu in the U.S. along with community public health orders ending, Dearth said.
“The limited number of serious flu cases last year means there is no immunity built up for the flu coming into this period of the year,” Dearth said.
People who do not plan on not getting their flu shot most likely did not get their COVID-19 vaccine, Thomas Duszynski, IUPUI director of epidemiology education, said.
Duszynski said many unvaccinated people who haven’t caught the flu believe they won’t ever catch it.
“It is important to realize the cold weather alone does not cause the flu,” Duszynski said. “It is what happens during the cold weather that ultimately causes the spread of the influenza.”
Now that students are back to in-person learning, the current learning environment is the ideal opportunity for the flu virus to spread because students are in confined spaces like lecture halls, Duszynski said.
“The hope is students have learned from the repercussions of COVID-19 and are more inclined to get vaccinated against both the flu and COVID-19,” Duszynski said. “They will have more freedom to move about once they are protected.”
Duszynski said it would be a smart idea for IU students to follow protocols like wearing a mask and stay physically distant if feasible, not just to protect themselves from COVID-19 but also from the flu.
Vaccines have been proven to prevent severe illness and death from illnesses like COVID-19 and the flu, Megan Wade-Taxter, Indiana Department of Health spokesperson, said.
“It is so important to continue to promote everyone getting vaccinated so they can protect those around them,” Wade-Taxter said in an email to the Indiana Daily Student.