According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Blacks are a disparate population that receive low flu vaccinations, yet experience disproportionately higher rates of chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart diseases, as well as extreme obesity. These conditions place them at higher risk for severe influenza complications.

“The influenza vaccine remains the most effective prevention against contracting the disease,” said Dr. David E. Bronstein, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Catching the flu will compromise your immune system and potentially make you more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 or other infectious diseases, which would result in dire consequences to your health. The flu is preventable, and the flu shot is our best defense against it.”

Unfortunately, studies show that there are significant health-related inequities in flu vaccination rates and flu-related complications, particularly in the Black and Latino communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Blacks and Latinos experience disproportionately higher rates of chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. These chronic health conditions place many Blacks and Latinos at a higher risk of severe flu complications. The most effective strategy for reducing the effect of the flu within the Black community is to get vaccinated, and that is more important than ever this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“That is why it is so important for Blacks to get an annual influenza vaccine because of their increased health risk factors,” said Dr. Bronstein, who practices at Kaiser Permanente Antelope Valley Medical Offices in Palmdale. “Getting vaccinated can reduce flu-related illnesses, doctor’s visits and missed school and workdays. Influenza vaccination in high-risk individuals has also been linked to favorable health outcomes, including fewer flu-related hospitalizations and death. High-risk individuals include children, the elderly, immuno-compromised individuals and those with severe chronic conditions.”

A common misconception is that a flu shot will give you the flu, said Dr. Bronstein. That’s simply not true, he noted, because you cannot contract the flu from getting a flu shot. Side effects, when they do occur, are typically very mild. However, by not getting vaccinated, you put yourself and your loved ones at a greater risk of getting the flu, which causes serious illness, hospitalizations and thousands of deaths each year.

This is especially true this year, because the flu will weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to catching other infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, said Dr. Bronstein. Having the flu and COVID-19 at the same time would be devastating to your health.

“It’s important to understand the benefits of flu immunizations, especially this year, which is why we strongly encourage everyone to get the flu shot,” said Dr. Bronstein. “Getting vaccinated will protect your health, as well as reduce missed school and workdays.”
Kaiser Permanente members are encouraged to visit or call the flu hotline number at 1-866-706-6358 on or after Sept. 1 for information about how to safely get your flu vaccine at one of the many Kaiser Permanente facilities across Southern California.”