Rhode Island's annual flu immunization campaign was launched today at the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) by Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, who vaccinated reporters and discussed the dangers of the flu and the importance of flu shots for everyone older than six months of age.
"A flu shot is the single best way to protect yourself and the ones you love against the flu. When you get a flu shot you are not only protecting yourself, you are also protecting the people in your life by limiting the spread of the flu. This is especially important if you spend time with younger children or the elderly, who are more susceptible to the effects of the flu," said Dr. Alexander-Scott. "Even if you don't have health insurance or can't afford a flu shot, there are places in Rhode Island where you can get vaccinated for free. There will be more than 100 public flu clinics at schools across the state, starting next week. Flu shots are safe, effective, and easier to get than ever before!"
Although doctors recommend flu shots for everyone older than six months of age, flu shots are especially important for certain people. They include the elderly, healthcare workers, younger children, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions. Examples of chronic medical conditions include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and asthma.
The flu is a serious virus that can even be deadly. Last year, the flu sent 1,216 Rhode Islanders to the hospital and resulted in 33 deaths. Approximately 455,000 Rhode Islanders were vaccinated last year. This was the second highest rate in the nation. However, RIDOH is working to increase Rhode Island's vaccination rate for the 2017-2018 flu season.
In addition to helping keep individuals and families healthy, flu shots represent a public health investment in prevention that saves Rhode Island and the United States significant amounts of money each year. Across the country, the flu results in an estimated $10.4 billion in direct medical expenses annually and an additional $16.3 billion in lost earnings annually. Increased flu vaccination rates can bring these figures down.
After getting a flu shot some people experience a slight ache or a low-grade fever. This means that the body is developing an immune response to the flu virus. These mild side effects are much less significant than the actual flu, which causes most people to stay in bed for a week. You absolutely cannot get the flu from the flu shot.
Dr. Alexander-Scott was joined at the press event by several legislators, who were also vaccinated. They included Representative Vella-Wilkinson (Warwick), Representative Edwards (Tiverton/ Portsmouth), and Representative Mendonca (Portsmouth/ Middletown).
People with additional questions can call 401-222-5960 / RI Relay 711.