CDC director visits Orlando to boost vaccine rates
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reminding everyone to get flu and COVID-19 vaccinated before the upcoming holidays.
That was the message CDC Director Mandy Cohen hoped to spread as she stopped by an Orlando Walgreens off Sand Lake Road Wednesday.
"There are a lot of viruses around. There's particularly a lot of flu here in Florida right now. We are seeing even more COVID also around but it is not too late to get your flu shot and your COVID shot," Cohen said.
Florida is among 15 statesto report the highest rates of Flu cases in the country, according to CDC data. Orange County is reporting one of the most flu-active locations in Florida, and COVID-19 cases are also persisting. Despite this, vaccine turnouts have not been ideal. As respiratory virus activity picks up, vaccine levels remain below last year's totals, which were also low, according to the CDC.
The last couple of respiratory seasons saw flu activity begin to pick up earlier in the season than in previous years. However, this season, illnesses started later, reflective of patterns seen before the COVID pandemic — which means the peak of respiratory illness activity is likely yet to come, the CDC said. About 37% of adults have received the COVID vaccine, about 40% got their flu shot, and 17% received the new RSV vaccine.
Cohen suspects numbers are lower on the RSV vaccine because not as many people are aware of it.
The CDC has been researching why vaccine levels have been lower this year and found that primary care doctors haven’t been recommending patients get vaccinated, Cohen said. She thinks that doctors are too busy and forget to have this conversation.
“Patients assume that if their doctor didn't bring it up, then it maybe it's not for them," Cohen said. "I think it's just a time crunch. So we're reminding docs to make sure to have that conversation with their patients.”
Cohen says with the holidays around the corner, even a week out isn’t too late to get vaccinated. And ambitious older patients can receive the flu, COVID, and the new RSV shots at the same time.
Shawn Raftopol, 53 of Orlando, was getting his flu, COVID, and pneumonia vaccines along with his two children. He said they normally get vaccinated together.
"I know a lot of people who are immuno-compromised, and anytime I can do something to not be spreading I would prefer to help keep my friends safe," he said.
If someone is feeling ill before the family gatherings, Cohen suggested not bringing the gift of sickness to the party.
"I know it is so hard to stay home during the holiday season and miss a party and miss a gathering. But if you're sick, stay home and don't spread those germs, and then get tested so you know what you have so you can get treatment," she said.
Those without insurance can still get the COVID-19 vaccine for free through the CDC’s Bridge Access program. Bridge Access is available at Walgreens, or you can go to Vaccines.govto find a nearby participating location.