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Thoughts from Claire Letourneau
Each fall, we encourage everyone to get a flu vaccination. Each fall, we hear, “I don’t need a flu shot, I never get sick.” And each fall, I cringe! I cringe because I’m frustrated that people don’t understand the importance of community wellness – doing something that you may not want to do, for the good of the community. Unfortunately, the world is learning about community wellness through the coronavirus pandemic and the fatal consequences of ignoring it.
What most people don’t comprehend is that the flu is deadly as well. Let’s talk numbers for the skeptics among us. During the 2018-2019 season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 35 million people were sick with influenza, there were 490,600 hospitalizations and 34,200 deaths related to influenza (not coronavirus). Who’s most impacted by the flu: those over 65 years of age, children, pregnant women, and those with asthma, HIV, AIDS, diabetes, and cancer. Does this list sound familiar? It should by now, given it’s very similar to the list of those at risk for serious complications from coronavirus. Yet, unlike coronavirus, which is new and does not have known treatments or a vaccination, the flu has a vaccination created to combat four different strains of the virus. We, as a community, can help to prevent the spread of influenza by taking 15 minutes out of our day to get a vaccination – however, less than 50% of Americans get the flu shot!
Through coronavirus the world is now learning how community wellness can save lives – we’re receiving daily, almost hourly reminders of how to prevent the spread of the illness and the damage not adhering can do. My sincere hope is that, once the pandemic subsides and the news cycle turns to the economy and the election, we all take a minute to absorb the lesson that we’re all in this together and to protect those most at-risk among us, we need to get vaccinations. I fear that when we schedule vaccination clinics in future years people will choose only the coronavirus vaccine and not the influenza vaccine. Only time will tell.
For now, please help employees know how to keep themselves, their loved ones, and strangers safe during the pandemic – by sheltering in place, social distancing, hand washing, and covering coughs or sneezes. My colleague, Craig Schmidt, recently wrote about dispelling misinformation and panic related to coronavirus. Keep an eye out for more credible guidance and insights in the continuing series of coronavirus blogs from the EPIC Wellness & Health Management practice. EPIC also has a dedicated coronavirus webpage with links to additional employer resources for employee benefits and risk management. Stay well everyone!