Myths cause flu vaccination disparities


Special to the NNPA News Wire from The Washington Informer

The National Influenza Vaccination Disparities Partnership [NIVDP] kicked off flu season with free vaccinations for underserved communities whose livelihoods depend on them not falling ill to this disease.

The NIVDP and the Mayor’s Office of Latino Affairs along with support from Walgreens Pharmacy held a press conference to inform and educate residents and to dispel myths about the flu virus on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at the Mayor’s Office of Latino Affairs in Northwest.

“Many people aren’t getting flu vaccinations because they view the flu as a bad cold,” said Charles Johnson, an African-American community outreach specialist based in Northwest. “We are working hard all over the country because there is so much wrong information out there.”

The flu virus – a disease that can be costly for American families, and some times, even deadly, affects millions of people every year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] recommends an annual flu vaccination for everyone six months and older. The flu vaccine remains the best way to prevent the flu.

At the conclusion of the press conference, residents and participants received free flu vaccinations courtesy of Walgreens Pharmacy.

“The event was really nice because different groups came together to work for the important cause of supplying people with flu vaccinations who need it,” Johnson said.

Guests for the event included: Jackie Reyes, executive director, Mayor’s Office of Latino Affairs; Paulina Salomon Fuentes, coordinator of Community Affairs, Embassy of Mexico; and Sheila Alexander-Reid, director, Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

In explaining why minority communities experience significant disparities in the number of flu vaccinations, Johnson feels inaccurate information remains a huge reason.

“Many people believe that getting the vaccination actually gives you the flu and you will get sick – that is simply not true,” he said. “Our goal is to get the right information to the people, educate them and let them know that if you don’t like needles you can get a mist vaccination, which is similar to a nasal mist,” he added.

A NIVDP, a national multi-sector campaign spearheaded by local influential partners, commits to promoting the importance of flu vaccinations among underserved populations.

The partnership has the support of the CDC.

Johnson and his team travel all around the country focusing on flu prevention. He said trust remains a big factor in persuading people to get vaccinated.

“One thing that we have been doing that we will continue to do is grassroots campaigning. This has worked when we use familiar and trusted faces in the community to spread the word,” Johnson said.