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Governor McKee, Health Officials Kick Off Flu Vaccination Campaign

Governor Dan McKee joined leaders from the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) today to get his flu shot and encourage everyone 6 months of age and older to get their flu shots to stay as healthy as possible this fall and winter.

"Getting a flu shot is your best protection against serious illness from the flu, and it's also the best way to protect the people you love by helping reduce the spread of the flu," said Governor McKee. "For that reason, we have worked to make sure that plenty of flu vaccine is available in every community in Rhode Island. Make your plans to get vaccinated today."

The flu vaccination campaign kick-off event was held at Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2 in Cumberland. A community-wide vaccination clinic will be held today at the school from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. More than 225 flu vaccination clinics will be held at schools throughout Rhode Island this year, many of them in the afternoon and evening. The afternoon and evening clinics are open to the entire community. There is no insurance required, and there is no cost for the vaccine at these clinics. For a full list of clinics, health.ri.gov/flu [r20.rs6.net].

"The flu is more than just a bad cold. The flu is a serious virus that keeps many people in bed for a week. This could mean missing a lot of time at work because you are sick, or having to stay home with a sick child who can't go to school," said Dr. Tosin Ojugbele, the Medical Director of RIDOH's Division of Community Health and Equity. "Flu vaccination is important every year because the flu strains we see each year are different. Flu shots are fast, easy, and free. Make sure you get yours today."

During typical flu seasons, the flu results in approximately 1,000 hospitalizations and many fatalities. For example, during the 2022-2023 flu season, the flu resulted in 819 hospitalizations and there were 32 flu-associated deaths.

RIDOH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend flu shots for everyone six months of age and older. Flu shots are especially important for certain people, including:

- Anyone 50 and older (CDC recommends the use of specific flu vaccines for adults 65 and older, including higher dose and adjuvanted flu vaccines), - Healthcare workers, - Anyone who lives in a long-term care facility, - Children younger than 5 years of age, - People who are pregnant, and - People with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and asthma.

In addition to the school clinics, there are many other places in Rhode Island where flu shots are available. Those locations include pharmacies, many worksite clinics, community clinics, and the offices of many primary care providers.

After getting a flu shot, some people may experience a slight ache at the injection site or a low-grade fever. That means the vaccine is working your body is learning to fight the virus. These mild symptoms are much less significant than the actual flu.

In addition to flu vaccination, RIDOH and CDC also recommend that Rhode Islanders 6 months of age and older get their updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine. People can get the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. The updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine is available in the offices of many primary care providers, pharmacies, federally qualified health centers, and other settings. People can get the updated COVID-19 vaccine even if they have never been vaccinated against COVID-19 previously. Visit vaccines.gov [r20.rs6.net] to find providers that offer no-cost COVID-19 vaccines through the Bridge Access Program.

In addition to getting vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19, Rhode Islanders can take other steps to stay healthy and safe over the coming months:

- Wash your hands often during 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 to prevent other people from getting sick. - Stay home if you are sick. - Keep surfaces (especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, and toys for children) clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant.

Additional resources:

- List of vaccination clinics and general information about the flu: health.ri.gov/flu [r20.rs6.net]. - Information about the flu in Spanish: health.ri.gov/gripe [r20.rs6.net]. - People with additional questions, including questions about where to get vaccinated if you do not have insurance, can call the Health Information Line at 401-222-5960 / RI Relay 711.

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