(WXYZ) — Once per year is how often the CDC recommends a flu shot for everyone 6 months and older. But the State of Michigan says this year, it seems that recommendation isn't being followed on a wide scale.
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"My wife and I needed a COVID booster and I also needed a flu shot. So I got my flu shot while I was here," said Jake Widmer, who got the flu vaccine and COVID booster.
Jake says he killed two birds with one stone at iPharmacy in Livonia, getting the COVID vaccine or booster along with the flu vaccine. And that's exactly what the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services want people to know is possible.
Jake says he's been consistent getting the flu shot the past 5 years or so, thanks to a nudge from his wife, Stephanie, who's a nurse.
"I feel it's important to protect not only myself, but ya know, the people around me. Some people aren't able to get the flu shots or COVID vaccines or anything and I do it to help prevent them from getting sick," said Stephanie, who got the booster and the flu vaccine.
According to the state's flu vaccine dashboard, in 2020, 3.5 million Michigan residents got the flu shot. This year, the state set a goal of 4 million.
The state's flu vaccine dashboard shows the state is 26 percent behind where it was this time last year. Currently, just over 2 million Michiganders have received the flu vaccine.
"We are already starting to see influenza outbreaks," said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Bagdasarian blames pandemic fatigue. She says the same mitigation strategies used last year with COVID, i.e. staying home, avoiding large gatherings and wearing masks, also helped stave off the flu at that time.
Now with people wanting to go back to normal, and fewer people getting the flu vaccine, she says, "our influenza vaccination rates are down. And these problems go hand in hand. Because if hospitals become overwhelmed with either flu or COVID, that means that people who need medical access, who need medical care, won't be able to got that care."
Instead of having to head to the hospital because of respiratory issues, the MDHHS wants Michiganders to be proactive and go to either their local health department or a trusted pharmacy.
Pharmacist Rudy Najm, owner of iPharmacy, says the reported downward trend of people getting the flu shot isn't his experience.
"I'm very well surprised," said Rudy. "We're basically up, at least 100, 200 percent the numbers of last year as far as flu shots. There's a lot of demand this year for flu shots."
Rudy says his customers are using it as a one-stop shop.
In addition to getting the flu shot, health officials encourage people to take certain steps to avoid sickness, like good hand hygiene, avoiding touching your face, routinely disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, and staying away from people who are sick if you can.
And if you are sick, you're urged to avoid contact with others.