State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney Join with Health Care Leaders to Encourage Public to Get Flu Shots

Millions of Americans Contract the Flu Each Year, Leading to Millions of Medical Visits and Serious Health Challenges for Many Individuals; Annual Flu Shots Help Reduce the Risk of Illness During Flu Season

Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, and other leaders gathered today at the Bon Secours Sarah Jones Garland Center for Healthy Living to encourage Virginians young and old to receive a seasonal flu shot if they have not already done so to protect themselves and others from illness.

“Flu vaccine is plentiful, and I urge everyone eligible to get vaccinated. I get a flu shot every year because it’s easy and effective protection during a time of year when respiratory viruses are circulating,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Shelton, MD. “Nobody wants to be sidelined with the flu, and while most healthy people get over the flu, people with underlying health issues are at greater risk for serious flu complications.”

Now is the time to get a flu shot as the colder months approach when people spend more time indoors, which is often associated with elevated rates of cold, flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19 infection. Dr. Shelton and Mayor Stoney were among the public officials who participated in an event today to promote the flu shot at the Bon Secours Sarah Garland Jones Center for Healthy Living on the campus of Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital. During the event, flu shots were made available to participants. Dr. Shelton was among those who rolled up her sleeve to receive a vaccine dose. A video recording of the event can be viewed online here.

“Getting a flu shot makes sense for so many reasons,” added Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. “Not only does it offer personal protection against illness, it is also a way to be considerate of our communities and the people around us. That’s because a case of the flu for medically vulnerable people, seniors, young children, can be very serious and potentially even fatal. Annual flu shots are important for public health and they are readily available in pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and through community clinics.”

The annual flu season lasts from the fall through the spring, with the greatest intensity in illness often seen in the fall and winter. Influenza is a viral condition that can infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Its symptoms may include fever, chills, congestion, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, and body aches. Each year, tens of millions of Americans contract the flu, resulting in millions of doctor visits, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of fatalities. During the 2022-2023 flu season, the flu shot rate was 57.4 percent among children ages 6 months to 17 (the 2020-2021 rate was 57.8 percent) while the adult flu vaccination rate was 46.9 percent (a 2.5 percent decrease from the 49.4 percent rate the previous year), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Bon Secours is committed to improving the health status of patients in our community,” said Mike Lutes, President, Bon Secours Richmond. “We encourage members of the community to talk with their primary care providers about protecting themselves against the flu, which hospitalizes thousands of people every year.”

“Getting an annual flu shot is a simple and effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from serious illness” added Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “Taking that precautionary step can help keep children healthy and in school and people going about their lives without interruption due to sickness. It can also help reduce burden on the health care delivery system during the winter months when flu, RSV, and COVID-19 cases tend to increase, leading to more visits to the doctor and hospital stays.”

The CDC recommends that most Americans 6 months and older receive an annual flu shot, which can reduce a person’s risk for becoming ill and can help reduce the severity of illness in people who contact the virus. This year, it is projected that vaccine manufacturers will supply as many as 170 million doses in the U.S. Flu shots are covered by many commercial insurance plans and Medicare and Medicaid. They are available at many medical practices and pharmacies. Anyone looking for a flu shot is encouraged to visit this website and enter their zip code to find a nearby flu shot location. The flu shot and COVID-19 booster can be received at the same time. People who need more information about COVID-19 boosters can visit this link.

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Dr. Karen Shelton gets her flu shot.
Photo by Tammie Smith