Michiganders who get the flu vaccine will help improve the health and safety of everyone, especially this year as the coronavirus continues to ravage the United States, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state health officials said Tuesday.
The flu vaccine works, and will help prevent people from rushing to the hospital in need of treatment due to the flu, said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive. More Michiganders getting the flu vaccine means hospitals and healthcare centers can devote fewer resources to the flu, focusing time and money instead toward the ongoing battle against COVID-19.
“When we all get our flu vaccine, we can help keep thousands of flu patients out of the hospitals and prevent overcrowding,” Whitmer said.
“Now imagine if we had a major flu outbreak on top of the surge (of coronavirus cases) we experienced in March and April of this year. Thousands of more people who needed to be hospitalized — that would mean more people would lose their battle. And we can help prevent that when we all get our flu vaccinations.”
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Last season, the state believes more than 3.2 million Michiganders received a flu vaccine. But across the country, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services estimates there were nearly half a million hospitalizations because of the flu. Six children died in Michigan because of the flu last year, according to the department.
To help try and prevent similar deaths in the future, the state is launching a new television and social media campaign. It’s an effort to educate and encourage more than 4 million residents to get their shot this year.
The CDC recommends getting a flu shot, but advises waiting until September or later to ensure peak effectiveness.
“Vaccination too early in the season (e.g., July or August) may lead to suboptimal immunity later in the season, particularly among older adults,” states a CDC website.
The governor demonstrated how easy it is to get the vaccine on Tuesday, removing her blazer to get her shot during the press conference.
“Literally the easiest thing I will do today,” Whitmer said after receiving the shot.
The flu vaccine does not cause the flu, and it does work, Khaldun said, noting there are myths preventing some from getting the vaccine. Those who think the flu is not that dangerous should reconsider, she said.
“This is not a joke…I’ve taken care of many patients who have battled the flu, and some have even lost their lives.”
The announcement comes as local schools and universities grapple with the best way to safely educate students this fall.
Whitmer and Khaldun noted it is crucial for students, educators and school staff to get their shots if they are in local districts that have resumed face-to-face classes.
However, some colleges and local districts across the state appear to have their hands full with COVID-19.
On Tuesday, more than 200 college and university professor signed an open letter sent to Whitmer, asking her to order institutions of higher education to teach most courses online.
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Michigan State University recently switched course and told students it would only offer online classes this fall. Eastern Michigan University announced this week it would delay students moving in on campus until Sept. 17 and start the semester with all-virtual classes.
But in Mt. Pleasant, Central Michigan University welcomed back thousands of students to campus last week. Almost immediately, the area became a COVID-19 hotspot.
On Monday, Isabella County officials directly cited the university and students attending parties when they declared a health emergency.
“We have seen a large increase in cases since students returned to the Mt. Pleasant area. Our investigations have shown that the majority of these cases had attended large social gatherings,” Steve Hall, a local health officer, said in a news release.
Whitmer also announced on Tuesday that IKEA donated $1.2 million to the state toward fighting the coronavirus. The money can be used to pay for personal protective equipment, food, water and other essential items.
Contact Dave Boucher at email@example.com or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.