DENVER — As holiday gatherings approach, state health officials are urging Coloradans to get a flu shot as they say respiratory illnesses, like influenza, COVID-19 and RSV, continue to circulate in communities statewide.
According to a release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), current influenza hospitalization rates are higher at this time of year than any season in the previous decade.
“In some states, flu cases and hospitalizations are at their highest marks since the H1N1 flu pandemic back in 2009," said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer at CDPHE. "Getting the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time is safe and easy to get at your doctor’s office, local pharmacy or health clinic, and is an important way we can protect ourselves and our loved ones."
According to CDPHE, most vaccines take two weeks to be fully effective, so they say now is the perfect time to get vaccinated to give your body time to build maximum protection for the holidays.
The last day to get your flu and COVID-19 vaccine and have maximum protection before Christmas Eve is Saturday, Dec. 10; Sunday, Dec. 11 is the deadline for Christmas; Saturday, Dec. 17 is the deadline for New Year’s Eve.
Additionally, Coloradans still have time to gain some protection before Hanukkah, which begins Sunday, Dec. 18.
In Colorado, 306 people were hospitalized with influenza during the week ending Dec. 3, for a total of 952 people hospitalized with flu since Oct. 2, the release says.
There have been 1,700 RSV-associated hospitalizations in the five-county Denver metro area (Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties) since Oct. 1 and more RSV hospitalizations have been reported in the first two months of this season compared with all of last season.
According to the release, Colorado is on pace to exceed last year’s flu vaccination numbers, but is behind where we were at this point of the flu season two years ago.
Through Dec. 8, 1,684,111 Coloradans have received their flu vaccine this season, up from 1,661,939 at the same time last year.
Getting your annual flu vaccine helps protect loved ones, those who may be at increased risk from influenza, health care workers, and the entire community, CDPHE says. The flu vaccine is also safe, effective, easy to get, and free for most people. You can also get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.
“Flu vaccines are recommended for everyone aged 6 months and older, with rare exceptions," France said. "Flu vaccines are the best way to prevent spreading the flu to people who are most at risk, including older adults, young children, people who are pregnant and people with certain chronic health conditions."
The state health department recommends:
- Adults 65 and older should receive one of three specific types of flu vaccines. If one of these three products is not available, people 65 and older can receive any other age-appropriate influenza vaccine. People can talk to their doctors about which vaccine is best for them.
- Children younger than 9 years old who are either getting the flu vaccine for the first time or have only previously received one dose of the vaccine should get two doses of the vaccine. The second dose should be given at least 28 days after the first dose.
- Pregnant people have more serious complications if they get the flu. The flu vaccine can be given in any trimester of pregnancy.
Medicare, Medicaid, CHP+, and most private health insurers cover the full cost of the flu vaccine. Coloradans without health insurance can still get the flu vaccine for free at certain healthcare providers. CDPHE says people need to call ahead or schedule online with their local pharmacy or health care clinic to make an appointment for the flu vaccine.
To stay informed, people can visit the department's flu webpage. The department's Colorado Flu Report, which tracks flu numbers in the state, is updated weekly.
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: COVID-19 Coronavirus