Governor Kathy Hochul received her influenza vaccine Wednesday while urging and encouraging New Yorkers to do the same to protect themselves and their loved ones ahead of the flu season.
The influenza vaccine, along with the most recent COVID-19 booster shot, is recommended to protect against the “twindemic” expected this winter, with an anticipated rise in COVID and influenza cases and hospitalizations.
“I want people to know that we are taking this very seriously,” the governor said on Oct. 26. “We are all seeing the national news stories and it is concerning. It’s the flu, it’s COVID , it is [respiratory syncytial virus]. I know what parents are going through [but] there’s nothing to be alarmed about right now. What you’ve seen in other states is an overcapacity in some of the hospitals, especially pediatrics units, and I want you to know that our department of health is laser focused on all the dynamics involved.”
The past two flu seasons were not as severe, partially because of former mask mandates, social distancing and hygiene. However, since many COVID precautions have been lessened, medication professionals are encouraging New Yorkers to be proactive with their health.
“The flu is nasty, and the best way to protect yourself is with the vaccine,” said Dr. Keith Roach, a general internist and associate attending physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center on Wednesday. “And with COVID-19 still out there, it is perfectly safe to get the flu shot and updated Omicron booster at the same time.”
Many medical experts are expecting COVID numbers to increase drastically over the next few months, and say that receiving vaccines will help aid New Yorkers from contracting the virus.
“I am concerned that the COVID-19 infections will skyrocket this winter as people get together and take fewer precautions,” said Dr. Roach. “Because most people are vaccinated, I don’t expect nearly as many deaths and hospitalizations as there were in the last two years. But to protect yourself and loved ones, get your flu shot and COVID-19 boosters and continue to be cautious this winter. COVID-19 is still out there and flu may come roaring back.”
Earlier this year, the State Department of Health (DOH) released a new Health Advisory Notice in regards to the numerous infectious diseases and viruses that could threaten New Yorkers in the coming months.
The notice indicated and highlighted the increased numbers of hospitalizations due to illnesses like COVID and the flu, and it also provides federal funding to help aid hospitals.
“As the respiratory virus season begins, including COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the symptoms for all three illnesses may be indistinguishable, and for the vast majority of older children these illnesses are mild,” said NYS Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett While we await a RSV vaccine, we have two straightforward messages for parents and guardians: make sure your child is up to date on their COVID-19 vaccination, and get a flu shot for children 6 months of age or older. Even if your child does get sick, the effects of immunizations have been shown to lessen illness severity. If you are concerned about your child, speak with a pediatrician or other health care professional. If your infant was born premature or otherwise fragile, you should seek medical advice early.”
Flu vaccines are available to anyone 6 months or older and COVID vaccines are recommended to anyone over the age of five is able to get the vaccine. Vaccines are also recommended for people with chronic diseases, young children, and individuals who are pregnant, due to a higher predisposition to contract a viral disease.
It is also possible for New Yorkers to get both the flu and COVID vaccines simultaneously making access to these preventative measures much easier.
Check your local pharmacies for vaccine availability, and to make an appointment.