WEST JORDAN — A new survey reveals just 59% of American adults plan to get the flu vaccine this year, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Disease. Health officials say those numbers are concerning since the flu season and ongoing coronavirus pandemic are overlapping, making it more important than ever for people to get vaccinated.
Xander and Cole Wilde are happy to be back to school in person. "It's easier that way. I can ask the teacher for help," 10-year-old Xander explained.
But it was a tough decision for their parents, Michelle and Josh Wilde, to make.
"Kids — they just touch everything, they pass it to each other," Michelle described, explaining her hesitancy.
That's why she is making safety top of mind. She and Josh took their family to their local "Boo the Flu" clinic at Bennion Elementary School in West Jordan to get flu shots.
Michelle Wilde says it’s easy for her to remember since the school typically aligns parent/teacher conferences with the clinic. "I'm going to the school anyway. I have the whole family with me anyway. It's super easy to just go in and fill out the paperwork," she explained.
Although Xander and Cole were a little apprehensive, they understood the importance and were willing to cooperate with an ice cream incentive.
Michelle Wilde says she vaccinates her kids to help protect her extended family members who have weakened immune systems, including her grandfather.
"I don't want to pass anything on to them that would make them very sick or land them in the hospital," she said.
Intermountain Healthcare's Tamara Sheffield, medical director of community health and prevention, says it's more important than ever to get a flu shot this year.
"We can't have influenza circulating and COVID at the same time and we have a vaccine that prevents influenza and prevents those hospitalizations and deaths," she explained.
She said flu vaccinations will reduce the burden on our overall health care system by preventing people from having to be tested, going to the emergency room, or using hospital beds.
"We need to save those resources for people who have COVID-19," she emphasized.
Despite rumors, Sheffield made it clear: "If you get a flu vaccine, it puts you at no higher risk for getting COVID-19."
She encourages anyone 6 months and older to get their shot in October before the flu season hits in November and December, and recommends people 65 years old and older get a high-dose vaccine.
"Because your immune system doesn't work quite as well as you get older and you need an extra boost of the vaccine to help you develop the immunity," she explained.
Sheffield hopes Utahns will play their part in slowing the spread of both COVID-19 and influenza. "The way we make it a mild season is by using all the tools, we have to prevent respiratory infections," she said. "One of the best tools we have is vaccines."
She encourages people to continue wearing masks, washing their hands and social distancing.
Michelle Wilde wants to keep her kids both happy and healthy by ensuring them "the most protection I can give them, while still allowing them to be kids and play with their friends and learn in person," she said.
After getting his shot, 6-year-old Cole said, "That was actually faster than I thought!"
"The more people who can get the shot and the more people who can just wear a mask and social distance, the more we can get back to just seeing the people we love," Michelle said.
Intermountain Healthcare is offering drive-thru flu shot clinics allowing people to get vaccinated without leaving their own car. To find a drive-thru location or walk-in pharmacy near you, visit intermountainhealthcare.org/flu.