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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  – October 10, 2023
Media Contact:
VHHA: Julian Walker, Vice President of Communications,
VDH: Maria Reppas, Director of Communications,

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

RICHMOND, Va. – 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

About VDH: The mission of the Virginia Department of Health is to protect the health and promote the well-being of all people in Virginia. Learn more at

About VHHA: The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association is an alliance of 111 hospitals and 26 health delivery systems that develops and advocates for sound health care policy in the Commonwealth. Its mission is to achieve excellence in both health care and health to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation. Its vision is through collaboration with members and stakeholders, to ensure the sustainability of Virginia health care system, transform the delivery of care to promote lower costs and high value across the continuum of care, and to improve health for all Virginians. Connect with VHHA through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

 About Bon Secours – Richmond: Bon Secours – Richmond is part of Bon Secours Mercy Health, one of the 20 largest health systems in the United States and the fifth-largest Catholic health system in the country. The ministry’s quality, compassionate care is provided by more than 60,000 associates serving communities in Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia, as well as throughout Ireland. Bon Secours – Richmond provides compassionate medical care through a network of hospitals, primary and specialty care practices and ambulatory care sites. As one of Richmond’s largest employers, the not-for-profit health system employs more than 9,000 people, including nearly 420 providers as part of the Bon Secours Medical Group. Bon Secours – Richmond includes St. Mary’s Hospital, Memorial Regional Medical Center, Richmond Community Hospital, St. Francis Medical Center, Rappahannock General Hospital, Southside Medical Center, Southern Virginia Medical Center, Westchester Emergency Center, Chester Emergency Center, Short Pump Emergency Center and Southside Emergency Care Center. The mission of Bon Secours is to extend the compassionate ministry of Jesus by improving the health and well-being of our communities and bring good help to those in need, especially people who are poor, dying and underserved. For more information visit