Concerns rise about flu and COVID-19 vaccinations

An outbreak of 525 cases of influenza among students at the University of Michigan has area health officials worried. 

The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency is concerned with some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccinations rates in Michigan, residents now need to get the flu vaccine. 

Statewide surveillance shows flu vaccination numbers are lower than last year’s, which puts the community at higher risk for transmission. 

Kali Nichols, director of Personal Health and Disease Prevention for the agency, said. “This year could be challenging with low COVID vaccination numbers in many of our communities and individuals not getting their flu shots.”

Hillsdale County has the third-lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate at 41.4% fully vaccinated. Branch County is only slightly better at 10 of 83 with 46% vaccinated. St. Joseph County is 14th lowest of the 83 at 48%. 

ProMedica Regional Medical Center in Coldwater reported 100% capacity this week for all beds. It had 17 COVID-19 patients, three in intensive care. Most are unvaccinated. The emergency department has been flooded. State records show as of Wednesday it reported 60 positive cases per 100,000 population average over the week. 

Hillsdale Hospital was at 44% capacity with seven COVID-19 patients, two in ICU. The rate of infection averaged over the week was 50 per 100,000 population. 

In St. Joseph County, the rate of infection was reported at 39 per 100,000. Three Rivers Health at four COVID-19 patients at 51% capacity. Sturgis Hospital was at 70% capacity with four COVID-19 patients. 

“The agency understands that everyone is fatigued with messaging about COVID, but we must continue to protect the residents from Influenza as well,” Nichols said. 

Due to the pandemic response of 2021, influenza cases were lower, because of the mitigation strategies, such as masking, satirizers and avoiding crowds, she explained.

Flu shots are widely available including local pharmacies, physician offices and the local health department offices.

For children “The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency offers free flu shots to qualifying families with children age 18 or younger through the Vaccines for Children program. This program is for children who are not insured or whose insurance does not cover immunizations,” the director said. 

The recommendations for the flu are like for COVID-19, Nichols said.

“Try to avoid close contact with sick people,” she said.

Read More: Concerns rise about flu and COVID-19 vaccinations

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