Health department urges flu vaccine

Published 7:51 pm Monday, December 6, 2021

With the 2021-22 flu season officially under way, the Virginia Department of Health encourages all people in Virginia 6 months and older to receive their annual flu vaccine.

Although flu activity remains low nationally, Virginia has started to see sporadic reports of the influenza virus detected in recent weeks, and though the flu season varies by year, cases often peak in January or February and continue through May.

“I make it a priority to get a flu shot every year,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver. “If you’ve ever had the flu, you know it can make you sick with symptoms such as chills, cough, fatigue, sore throat and aches all over. Getting a flu shot is a simple and effective way to reduce your risk of getting sidelined by the flu.”

A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and updated to keep up with changing flu viruses.

The 2020-21 flu season was unusually mild.

“Public health recommendations such as social distancing, wearing a mask indoors, staying home when sick, avoiding crowds, and hand washing all likely contributed to the mild 2020-2021 season,” said Respiratory Disease Coordinator Lisa Sollot. “How well these recommendations are followed this season will likely have an impact on transmission of influenza.

“Additionally, some experts have suggested that because there was little flu virus activity last year, natural immunity may be lower than in an average flu season. This development makes getting the influenza vaccine this season even more important.”

Visit www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines to find a location near you to get the flu vaccine. It is safe to get both the flu and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

To minimize your risk of contracting or transmitting the flu, follow these simple steps:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds
  • Cover your cough, either by using a disposable tissue or coughing into your sleeve, not your hand
  • Stay at home when you are sick

VDH urges anyone to stay home and to contact your healthcare provider for evaluation, treatment and possible testing if they feel sick.

For more information on the flu, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/influenza-flu-in-virginia.