KCHD officials discourage ‘vaccine fatigue’ as early flu season starts

KCHD officials discourage ‘vaccine fatigue’ as early flu season starts
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 11:28 PM EST
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Black Friday shopping and an uptick in large gatherings, Kanawha County area health officials updated the community on the challenges facing the area health care system regarding COVID-19, pediatric RSV and influenza.

Dr. Steven Eshenaur, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department’s Health Officer, said Monday that he is seeing fewer numbers of people receiving flu shots than he has in recent years.

“I think a lot of people have been lulled by the fact that the last two years, we’ve not seen the flu ... outbreak that we are seeing this year,” he said. “It could be that people are tired of getting the messaging over and over and over about getting a COVID vaccine to get a COVID vaccine when they become fatigued to hearing the vaccine message.”

Data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources support Eshenaur’s observations.

In Kanawha County, about 17% of people eligible for the flu shot have received it.

In Putnam County, roughly 18% of residents have received their flu shot and about 14% of people have gotten the vaccine in Braxton County.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent show more than 6,000 people across the United States have been hospitalized for the flu this season.

Dr. Mike Robie from the Charleston Area Medical Center said there are 24 people hospitalized for the flu across their entire system.

He said while the number is manageable now, staff members are dealing with the added challenge of treating 19 children who are hospitalized with RSV.

“In life, there are wants and needs. If you want to stay out of the hospital, you need to get your flu shot,” Robie said. “Typically at Women and Children’s [Hospital], we’ll have about 20 inpatient pediatric patients at a time on our floor, [Monday] morning, we had 19 RSV patients alone. As children have difficulty breathing, you can imagine if your child has difficulty breathing, that’s a pretty scary moment, stay ahead of it, don’t wait too long before you reach out for health care advice.”

Eshenaur said to prevent another pandemic-like situation from happening, take precautions against the viruses as soon as possible.

“We can protect our population, we can protect our children, and we can protect our loved ones, especially our seniors,” he said. “They’re two vulnerable pieces of our population, but we all need to come together and get an immunization to protect them.”

The latest COVID-19 vaccine, the bivalent booster, can be received with the flu shot.

Health officials consider those ages 65 and older the most vulnerable for complications caused by COVID-19 or the flu.

CDC data shows that 21% of West Virginians, 28% of Ohio residents and 24% of Kentuckians in the 65 and up age group have received the booster.