Flu vaccination: Another important step to keep schools safe

From the West Virginia Immunization Network

With the likelihood that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will coincide with flu season, the West Virginia Immunization Network (WIN) is encouraging students, parents, and staff to prevent the spread of influenza (flu) in our schools and communities.

Whether in pre-K to 12th grades, technical schools, community colleges or universities, West Virginia classrooms already look a bit different this year as school systems continue to follow CDC guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Now, with flu season upon us, additional steps need to be taken to reduce the spread of flu in our schools. This includes getting a yearly flu vaccine – it’s an easy step that West Virginians can take to protect themselves and others in schools and classrooms.

Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. The flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, but it does protect against influenza and its complications. The flu vaccine is recommended for almost everyone six months of age and older. “Since flu is a dangerous disease for which we do have a vaccine, we should use it to protect our students, school personnel, and our communities,” said John Kennedy, the School-Based and Behavioral Health Coordinator at the West Virginia Primary Care Association.

Vaccination, hand washing, wearing a mask or face covering and social distancing will help reduce the spread of the flu and COVID-19 in schools and keep students and others healthy.

WIN also urges individuals considered at high risk to be especially careful during flu season. These individuals include, young children under the age of five, adults over 65, individuals with a chronic disease, weakened immune system, and those who are extremely obese. For a complete list of individuals considered at higher risk for complications from the flu, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/.

Flu vaccines are available at doctor’s offices, hospitals, community health centers, school-based health centers, free clinics, health departments, pharmacies, and, by some employers.

Most insurance plans cover childhood and adult vaccines. However, if you or your family have lost health insurance, there are programs available to help you get the flu vaccine. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program is a federal program that provides vaccines for children 18 years of age and younger who are uninsured, underinsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian, or Alaska Native. For help finding a local health care provider who participates in the VFC program, ask your child’s health care provider or contact a local health department.

For adults who do not have insurance or whose health insurance does not cover the flu vaccine, free vaccines are available at community health centers and local health departments. 

For more information about the flu and flu vaccination, talk to your health care provider or visit: www.cdc.gov/flu.