LANSING, Mich. – Michigan officials are urging residents to receive a flu vaccination this fall as health care systems continue to grapple with the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is placing an emphasis on the importance of receiving flu shots this year in an effort to prevent a flu outbreak and preserve resources for medical centers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s more important than ever for Michiganders everywhere to get your flu vaccine. Preventing the flu will help us save lives and preserve the health care resources we need to continue fighting COVID-19,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Every flu-related hospitalization we see this season will put an additional strain on Michigan’s economy and our health care systems and hospitals. Our hospitals are still reeling from the spring COVID-19 hospitalizations and are working to prepare for a potential second wave of the virus. I encourage everyone to get their flu vaccine, and tell your friends and family to do the same.”
According to the CDC, the U.S. recorded 39 to 56 million estimated cases of the flu during the 2019-2020 flu season. The nation also recorded 18 to 26 million medical visits due to the flu and nearly half a million flu hospitalizations, officials said.
The flu, also known as influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness that can prove deadly for some -- specifically children, older adults and individuals with chronic health conditions. According to officials, 187 U.S. children died from the flu, including six children in Michigan, during the 2019-2020 flu season.
The CDC estimates that up to 62,000 people died from influenza in the U.S. during the 2019-2020 flu season.
MDHHS chief deputy for health and chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said during a press conference Tuesday that the vaccine is vital to preventing a flu outbreak and effectively prevents individual flu infections.
“There is a lot of misinformation about the flu and the flu vaccine, but the science is clear: the flu can be deadly, and there are steps that we can take to protect against it,” Dr. Khaldun said. “That’s why as a parent and a doctor, I make sure myself and my children are protected each year with a flu vaccine for their safety, and for my patients, friends and community.”
The MDHHS says it has a goal of increasing flu vaccinations in the state by 33% -- meaning it hopes more than 4.2 million Michigan residents receive a flu shot.
The vaccine is already available in some parts of Michigan and will be widely available in the fall, officials said.
Flu symptoms can appear similar to COVID-19 symptoms. If you believe you may have contracted COVID-19, you are encouraged to get tested and self-quarantine until test results are received.
As of Monday, Aug. 24, the state of Michigan is reporting a total of 97,660 COVID-19 cases and 6,397 deaths.
New cases have plateaued in the last two weeks, while deaths remain flat in Michigan. Testing has remained steady, with an average of more than 25,000 per day, with the positive rate between 3 and 4 percent. The state reported its highest one-day testing total with more than 41,000 diagnostic tests on Aug. 21.
Hospitalizations have increased slightly over the last month but remain lower than in April.