It has been a hard year for many Kansans. We’ve all experienced the effects of COVID-19 on our daily lives and have struggled with not being able to see friends, family and co-workers. And while this has been challenging, we have continued to stick together and care for each other and our communities.


As we enter flu season, typically the time from October to May, we are going to have to come together once again for the benefit of all. Every year, millions of people suffer from the flu (also known as influenza), which is a virus that affects the throat, nose and lungs, and is spread from person to person. In addition to those who suffer from the flu, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and tens of thousands die from it.


Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading medical organizations are warning that this year’s flu season could be particularly dangerous as people have the potential to catch COVID-19 and the flu. Both illnesses could also overburden our health care workers and hospitals this fall and winter.


Importance of getting a flu shot


The flu causes many of the same symptoms as COVID-19 — including fever, chills, cough, body aches and fatigue that begin abruptly. Both COVID-19 and the flu take a greater toll on older people and those with other medical problems. However, with the flu, young children and pregnant women are also high risk.


Fortunately, the flu shot has been shown to decrease both the risk of the flu and the severity of illness if the flu develops. In even better news, studies have shown widespread vaccination of children creates herd immunity resulting in decreases in the flu in both unvaccinated children and adults of all ages.


The CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and countless medical organizations recommend everyone 6 months and older be immunized for the flu every season with only rare exceptions. It is recommended that you get the shot annually because flu viruses change or mutate every year and the protection you receive from a seasonal flu vaccine decreases over time.


In addition, each season’s vaccinations are a combination of what experts believe are likely to be the most common strains for the season.


Where to get your flu shot


With a commitment to protecting the health of all Kansans, we encourage everyone to get the flu shot this year to help protect your family, friends, co-workers and community. There are several locations in your community to get a vaccination, including your primary care doctor, pediatrician’s office, clinics, pharmacies, retail stores and your local health department.


Many health insurance plans offer free flu shots, but you should check with your insurance provider for more options and cost coverage. Learn more at The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website, as well as at Blue Cross’s site.


Even though we may still be physically distanced from those we love, we can continue to pull together as a community and as a state. We encourage you to do your part, protect your loved ones and schedule your flu shot today.


Matt All is president and CEO and John K. Fong, M.D., is chief medical officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.