The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) launched Rhode Island's annual flu immunization campaign today in collaboration with community partners, including East Bay Community Action Program (EBCAP) and members of the East Providence Health Equity Zone (HEZ) community collaborative. Dr. Ailis Clyne, Medical Director of RIDOH's Division of Community Health and Equity, discussed the dangers of the flu and the importance of flu shots for everyone older than six months of age. Flu vaccinations were also made available to event attendees.
"Year in and year out, a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against the flu. Limiting the spread of the flu by getting a flu shot 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. Clyne. "Flu shots are safe, effective, and easy to get in cities and towns across Rhode Island! 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, like the public flu clinics that opened this week at schools across the state."
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.
In addition to Dr. Clyne, the event at EBCAP was attended by EBCAP's Chief Medical Officer and 2019 Rhode Island Childhood Immunization Champion Sarah Fessler; EBCAP's Vice President of Family Development Rita Capotosto; and members of the East Providence HEZ Collaborative, including its Project Director Albert Whitaker.
"Why do healthcare providers recommend that almost everyone should get a flu shot every year? Because every year, up to 80,000 people In the United States die of complications of influenza," said Dr. Fessler. "Influenza is a preventable disease, and your best protection is the flu shot."
The flu is a serious virus that can even be deadly. Last year, the flu sent 1,032 Rhode Islanders to the hospital and resulted in 39 deaths.
During the 2018-2019 flu season. Rhode Island had the highest vaccination coverage rate among adults (56.3%) in the nation, and the second highest coverage rate among children (78.0%).* However, RIDOH is working to increase Rhode Island's vaccination rate for the 2019-2020 flu season. A list of evening flu clinics that are located at schools and are open to the entire community is available at www.health.ri.gov/flu. Flu shots are also available at other community clinics, doctors' offices, and pharmacies.
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.
In addition to getting vaccinated against the flu, Rhode Islanders can take other steps to stay healthy and safe this flu season.
- Wash your hands often throughout the day. Use warm water and soap. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel. - Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Flu is spread through coughing or sneezing on other people or into your hands. Cover your coughs and sneezes to prevent others from getting sick. - Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way. - Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods. - Keep surfaces (especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, and toys for children) clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant. - RIDOH recently awarded funding to East Providence to establish a new Health Equity Zone (HEZ). As the backbone organization for the HEZ, EBCAP's primary responsibility will be to support East Providence residents in identifying and leading initiatives to improve their health and wellness.
"East Bay Community Action Program is honored to have been chosen as the backbone agency for the East Providence Health Equity Zone," said Capotosto. "We have received strong support from community members, and we will continue to engage a broad and diverse array of residents, city leaders, business owners, community groups, and religious organizations to ensure that all stakeholders who wish to be involved in building the HEZ have an opportunity to do so. East Bay Community Action Program is in a unique position to facilitate this process, given its long-standing leadership role as a health, education and social service provider in the city. East Providence is a city with many strengths, and we are excited to build upon those strengths as we collaborate with others to determine a health and wellness-focused action plan."
The East Providence HEZ will hold a vaccination clinic on November 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the East Bay Family Health Center, 100 Bullocks Point Avenue, East Providence.
More information is available online:
- List of vaccination clinics and general information about the flu: health.ri.gov/flu - Information about the flu in Spanish: health.ri.gov/gripe - Information about Health Equity Zones: health.ri.gov/hez - People with additional questions can call the Health Information Line at 401-222-5960 / RI Relay 711.