BCBST News Center, John Hawbaker, September 22, 2020
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation has launched a statewide campaign encouraging Tennesseans to get the flu vaccine. BlueCross medical experts say the flu shot is especially important considering flu season will overlap with the COVID-19 pandemic.
BlueCross Chief Medical Officer Andrea Willis, M.D., has advocated for the flu vaccine as a safe, proven way to reduce the chances of getting sick or spreading the flu, noting that the flu can complicate permanent or temporary health conditions. Because of the added health risks around COVID-19 this year, she said protecting against the flu is even more important than it has been in years past.
“Most people recover from the flu without problems; but the flu can be very serious, even life-threatening. It can lead to significant health problems such as pneumonia, or it can make an existing disease worse,” Dr. Willis said. “Getting the vaccine helps protect you and your family so that, even if you don’t have symptoms, you don’t spread it to those around you.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to the flu can happen at any age; but some people are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children.
“Many Tennesseans already face disparities that limit or complicate their health outcomes,” Dr. Willis added. “Getting vaccinated against the flu can decrease their risk of exposure or additional health concerns.”
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine every year. Over the past 50 years, hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines, and it prevents millions of illnesses each year.
For those who have health insurance, flu vaccinations are free under most plans at in-network doctor’s offices, clinics and pharmacies. Tennesseans can also check with local health departments to find out about local availability, including any free vaccines that may be offered in their area.
More flu vaccine information and resources are available at BetterTennessee.com/flu.