Flu season soon will be upon us. And this year, it will take place in the middle of our ongoing battle against COVID-19.

The good news is the same essential safety precautions are prescribed for both threats: wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance.

For the most part, safeguarding against the flu isn’t asking people to change what they have already been doing in 2020. But there is one huge caveat. Unlike COVID-19 (as of now), flu vaccine shots are widely available. So it’s important that we get immunized now.

That message is front and center in the AHA’s annual United Against the Flu Campaign, getting underway now and culminating early next year. It’s a collaborative effort by several national health care organizations to encourage communities to stay healthy and protect themselves against the flu by getting vaccinated.

The campaign will share new digital tools and resources to promote the importance of getting an annual flu shot. It also will share information on AHA’s Wear a Mask initiative.

The bottom line is that we all should take whatever steps are appropriate to help steer people toward a vaccination site. These may include schools, the workplace, public health clinics or even grocery stores. Many times, flu shots are free.

Last year, 56 million Americans presented with flu symptoms, resulting in as many as 740,000 hospitalizations and 62,000 deaths, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the majority of these deaths occurred in people over age 65, many could have been prevented.

Vaccination is vital. Although not foolproof, it offers important protection, not just for patients, but for hospital employees and their loved ones. The CDC estimates that flu vaccination prevents millions of flu illnesses each year, tens of thousands of flu-related hospitalizations and thousands of deaths.  

The responsibility to keep our patients healthy lies in the hands of every member of our hospital and health system family. Now is the time for all of us to step up, get vaccinated, and set the good example that we want all our patients to follow.

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