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Message from Commissioner McCosh: Staying safe in flu season

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Published by:

Disabilities Commission

A weekly message from Commissioner McCosh in support of the local disability community.

Dear Disability Community Members, 

Protecting people against the flu is a top concern of Boston’s public health officials every year. As I’m sure you know, COVID-19 is still active and contagious - and it would be especially dangerous for people to get both viruses at the same time - so it is really important to avoid getting the flu this year. 
 
We want to be sure that you have all the information you need in order to stay safe and healthy this fall. So here is some important information about flu vaccinations.
 
What is the flu?
 
The “flu” is a contagious illness caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms include fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, runny nose, sore throat, and general weakness. Symptoms may appear suddenly, and can range from mild to severe. The influenza virus is most active from October through March, and that is when most infections occur. A person needs to get a flu vaccine every year in order to be protected. 
 
Who should get a flu vaccine?
 
It is recommended that anyone who is at higher risk of developing serious medical complications get vaccinated against the flu. These at-risk groups include:

  • Young children - anyone 6 months of age and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People who are 65 years and older
  • People with chronic health conditions 
  • Persons with disabilities and underlying medical issues

Why should I get vaccinated against the flu? 
 
Some people have a higher risk for serious illness, including young children, pregnant women, people who are 65 years old or older and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or other conditions). Even people who are not at risk for severe illness can pass the infection to their families, friends and patients, some of whom may fall into the high risk category. Getting the flu vaccines provides individual as well as community protection against the flu, and it is a public health step that we can all take!
 
When should I get my flu vaccine?
 
Getting your flu shot early in flu season will provide you with the greatest opportunity for protection all season long. Why not call your primary care provider today to make an appointment? Additionally, many local pharmacies are offering flu shots on a walk-in basis - but you should check their websites before you go.
 
Is the flu shot really free?
 
There are a variety of flu vaccine options available, most of which are no cost to individuals. Here is some helpful information about ways to get a flu shot with full payment coverage:    

  • ​Primary Care Providers - most health insurance plans cover the cost of a flu shot from your primary care provider and require no co-pay  
  • ​Local Pharmacies - many pharmacies offer the flu vaccine at no cost to the patient, but individuals should call ahead to confirm availability
  • Please be advised that pharmacists in Massachusetts can only vaccinate those who are 9 years old and older
  • If you do not have health insurance, or if co-pays are a barrier, you can call the Mayor’s Health Line​ at 617-534-5050 or toll-free at 1-800-847-0710. The Boston Public Health Commission, through the Mayor’s Health Line, will be offering vouchers for free flu vaccines to uninsured or underinsured adults at any Walgreens pharmacy

How can individuals help to prevent the spread of flu germs?

  • Be sure to get your flu vaccine every year
  • Wear a face covering or mask when you’re out in public
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue every time you cough or sneeze 
  • If you don't have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your upper sleeve
  • Clean your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner
  • Clean surfaces in your home regularly with a household cleaner
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick when possible
  • Please - stay home when you have flu-like symptoms or if you are feeling sick!

For more information on the flu and flu vaccines, visit the Boston Public Health Commission’s Flu Information Center.
 
If you have any questions or would like more information on other issues, please contact us at disability@boston.gov
 
Until next week, please stay informed, stay safe, and make plans to get your flu shot this week!

Sincerely,

Commissioner Kristen McCosh