With flu season here, health officials urge communities of color to get vaccinated for the flu. Photo by Andrew P. Latham.
By Andrew P. Latham
Health care professionals across the country continue to remind vulnerable populations that the flu can be deadly and highly contagious—and they want flu shots for everyone.
But this year in New York, the health department is taking that message to another group of people: people of color, whose vulnerability to flu illness means that they may be particularly at risk when flu season hits.
“The number of hospitalizations and deaths associated with influenza A have been disproportionately higher among racial and ethnic minorities and Native Americans in the U.S., when compared to other ethnic groups,” the New York City’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, stated in a press release last month.
Of the 14,867 flu-related emergency room visits in Manhattan last month, 2,405 were by people of color, and the department is urging people who are uninsured or underinsured to get vaccinated against flu. Over the last flu season, more than 700 people of color have been hospitalized and six have died.
“We don’t want any of these people to die,” Bassett said. “We want to keep them from getting sick and from being injured.”
The health department is also encouraging uninsured, low-income residents who are at risk for flu to get vaccinated, which could save their lives or prevent them from getting sick altogether. It’s not a decision that should be made lightly, Bassett said. Vaccinations are $30 each and people who lack insurance can buy them for $30. “There’s no reason to get the flu if nothing can be done to prevent getting it,” Bassett said. “There’s no money for that.”
There’s no quick fix to the problem, Bassett said, but there are things that the city can do to encourage healthy behavior that will ultimately limit the spread of flu.
“I don’t think we’re getting to the point where we can get rid of all the underlying barriers,” she said. “We’ve got to do something about