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Kentuckians urged to get COVID-19 boosters, flu shots as worse than usual virus season looms

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) are encouraging Kentuckians to stay up to date on COVID-19 and flu immunizations ahead of what’s expected to be a severe flu and COVID season.

“Kentuckians may be living as if the pandemic is over, but we can’t completely let our guard down,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “People are still getting sick. Some are still going to the hospital. And some are still dying from COVID. Others are having long-term symptoms after getting the infection. We don’t know how the virus will impact an individual and we have to take the precautions we have available.”

Research shows getting a COVID-19 vaccine or booster and the flu shot are the best way to avoid getting seriously ill, being hospitalized and dying from either infection. Newly released boosters from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna combat the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. Boosters are available two months after a person has received their primary COVID-19 vaccine doses or two months after their last booster dose. They are approved for people ages 12 years and older.

(Photo from Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky)

“The best way to prevent serious illness from COVID or the flu is by staying up to date on your vaccinations,” said Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman. “If we all do our part, we can minimize COVID and flu this winter season and enjoy time with our friends, neighbors, and loved ones.”

Many health experts predict a worse than usual flu season. The easing of COVID restrictions caused an uptick in flu cases in March and April 2022, the first time that the flu peaked that late in season since 1982.

With very few COVID restrictions now in place, infectious disease experts are seeing evidence that suggests the flu will make a strong comeback. Scientists look to flu trends in the Southern Hemisphere, where flu season begins six months earlier than in the U.S., as a predictor. This summer, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported increasing influenza activity particularly in Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

“Fewer cases of the flu in 2020 and 2021 were a nice break,” said Eric Friedlander, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “With progress being made for a better Kentucky, we want to do our part to keep the momentum going. Getting your flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine or booster will help protect you from getting seriously ill this winter. Take steps now to protect yourselves and your kids from viral infections.”

In addition to calling on Kentuckians to stay up to date on COVID and flu vaccines, health experts also urge people to make sure they receive the recommended immunizations – including against diseases such as polio, measles, and mumps – throughout their lives.

The Foundation has also partnered with Kentucky Voices for Health (KVH) to deepen and expand the commonwealth’s “boots-on-the-ground” network working to address the needs of communities facing barriers to vaccination. This two-year project will build a stronger and better-equipped network of community-based organizations working to increase vaccine confidence.

“This fall, to protect ourselves and reduce the chance of spreading these viruses to others, I encourage everyone to get a flu shot and, for everyone 12 and older, an updated COVID-19 booster,” said Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health. “If we roll up our sleeves and get immunized against the flu and COVID-19, we have a much better chance of staying healthy and well to enjoy fall and winter festivities surrounded by our family and friends.”

Organizations, employers, and health care providers are encouraged to visit Healthy-KY.org for more information on how to help educate the puclic regarding the importance vaccines.

Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

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