The Grapevine

Flu Season 2019: Pharmacies Offer Vaccine Incentives To Help Avoid Deadly Flu

Public health officials and doctors have been increasing their efforts to promote vaccines since the flu season started earlier than expected this year when many Americans are still not getting vaccinated. That means the contagious illness could spread faster in some areas in the U.S.

“A patient came to me with muscle aches, fever, severe fatigue and nasal congestion. I recognized the classic symptoms right away and tested her for flu, though it was still early September and I wasn’t expecting to see flu yet,” Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Health, said in an opinion piece posted Wednesday on The Hill. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it already recorded a number of flu-related deaths this season and doctors from different states have been reporting more cases of infections. 

This prompted some pharmacies to offer free flu shots to the public. Target, CVS and Publix released store gift cards and coupons to encourage people to consider getting vaccinated to prevent the illness from spreading, NBC-affiliated TV station WYFF reported Wednesday.

"It takes a good two weeks to build an immune response to it, so the sooner the better,” Taylor McKeowen, a nurse practitioner, said of getting flu shots. “If you’re going to be traveling in the next couple weeks, go ahead and get it done."

Bad Flu Season In 2019

Australia already recorded more than 300,000 flu cases this year. Siegel said the U.S. may see the same “bad flu season.” 

In 2018, flu sent more than 500,000 people to hospitals and caused 50,000 deaths across the country. Early signs of this year’s flu season indicate that it could be worse, Siegel said. 

Existing flu vaccines are proven effective to prevent infections. However, they are “imperfect” since they need to be updated every year to fight specific flu virus and the production process takes several months. 

Siegel suggested that the world needs a “universal flu vaccine.” Researchers, in support of the National Institutes of Health, have already started studies to find such vaccine. 

It should work against all strains of flu and even against a man-made or "weaponized" form of the illness, Siegel said. 

flu vaccine In 2018, flu sent more than 500,000 people to hospitals and caused 50,000 deaths across the U.S, but during a later stage in the season. Pixabay