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Wrong Time for Flu, Right Time for Shot

Flu season is just beginning in New York City, and already my two-year-old daughter, my wife, and I have all received our seasonal flu vaccination. I encourage everyone to join us to protect yourself and your community.
Every year, the Health Department works to make the flu vaccine easily available because the influenza virus can cause painful, and potentially life-threatening, symptoms even in healthy people.
In a typical flu season, roughly 2,000 New Yorkers die from influenza and pneumonia, and some of them are kids.
That is why we are recommending all New Yorkers ages six months and older get the flu shot, especially people who are most likely to get sick, including adults ages 50 and older, pregnant people, children ages six months to five years, and people with chronic diseases like diabetes.
The flu vaccine is safe and effective: Scientific evidence shows that it reduces the risk of illness between 40 and 60 percent, according to the CDC. If you’re 65 or older, ask your doctor about the high-dose flu vaccine.
I was proud to see a record number of adult New Yorkers get the flu vaccine last year. Over 1.4 million adults got vaccinated—the most ever. Our goal this year is to have another record-breaking year, and we are well on our way with 1,039,787 adult New Yorkers already vaccinated.
But despite our progress, we are still seeing troubling gaps in coverage. This is due in part to misinformation about the flu vaccine and mistrust in medical advice.
I want to make clear to New Yorkers that the flu vaccine will not give you the flu. Young and healthy people can become severely ill. And getting a flu shot will not increase your risk of getting COVID-19.
These are common myths, and we know we must address them in order to instill trust in the vaccine.
In addition, not enough children are getting vaccinated. Our data show that only 67 percent of children ages six months to five years were vaccinated last year, and this year’s numbers are also looking low. With children returning to schools and families out and about in our city again, it’s even more critical than ever to protect our littlest New Yorkers.
The flu vaccine is now widely available across the city for free or low-cost and regardless of immigration status. New Yorkers can find out where to get vaccinated at NYC.gov/FLU.
And if you still haven’t gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, you can get one at the same time as the flu vaccine. Remember that the flu vaccine doesn’t protect you against COVID-19, and the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t protect you against the flu. You need both!
Serious reactions to the flu shot are extremely rare. Common reactions may include mild pain, redness or swelling at the injection site or headache, fever and muscle aches.
As a doctor and a father, I wouldn’t ask New Yorkers to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. Flu activity usually starts as early as November and continues through late spring, and it takes a couple of weeks for your vaccine to kick in with immunity.
Now is the right time, so go get that flu shot today.

Dr. Dave Chokshi is the commissioner of the New York City Health Department.

Plan Ahead & Get Vaccinated Before School Starts

In early July, we were elated to welcome students to classrooms for Summer Rising, the city’s free summer academic and enrichment program. Children were clearly excited to be back with their teachers and friends, and those feelings have only grown over the past few weeks.
In an elementary school in East Harlem, youngsters proudly displayed the solar-powered ovens they’d built to cook s’mores. In a school in Chinatown, students gasped with joy over the “magical” science experiments performed by Jason Latimer of YouTube’s Impossible Science channel.
And in a school in the Bronx, students dove into their lessons and demonstrated an outdoor mindfulness activity.
Experiences like these are reflected in the smiles of hundreds of thousands of children who are in school to learn, play, connect, and grow this summer. Both children and their parents are grateful to have this bridge to the next school year.
We see the first day of school – Monday, September 13 – as a homecoming. In fact, it comes shortly after NYC Homecoming Week, a five-borough celebration of the city’s resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we think ahead to the fall, the health and safety of students and school communities are at the forefront of our planning. We are asking New Yorkers to help with a crucial part of this work: get vaccinated.
The vaccine for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 involves a two-dose regimen, and it takes two weeks from the second shot for someone to be considered fully vaccinated. So, think of this as your doctor’s orders: Schedule your vaccine today if you have not already.
Safely and fully reopening schools this fall is a milestone for our city, and we are eager to see students back in their school communities. We are doing everything in our power to create a safe learning environment, from disinfecting every school, to re-configuring classrooms and improving ventilation, to stocking up on face masks and hand sanitizer.
And last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that school staff must show a one-time proof of vaccination or weekly COVID-19 tests. The new requirement recognizes that the single most important way we can help our children go back to learning, and save lives, is with vaccination.
As parents ourselves, we know the decision to vaccinate is important, and we would do anything to protect our children. The vaccine is safe and very effective. Over 250,000 young New Yorkers have now gotten the shot.
At school, vaccination allows children to be in the classroom, participate in afterschool activities and sports, and gather with friends safely. It also provides a more stable learning environment. For example, students who are considered fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine.
Getting the shot has never been easier in New York City. Access to vaccination is widely available in all five boroughs, and the city is offering a new $100 incentive for anyone (including children) who gets their first dose at a city-run site.
Nearly all New Yorkers live within a half-mile of a public vaccination site, and everyone is eligible to request and receive at-home vaccination.
Pediatricians and other health care providers can also help answer questions, and many are able to give the COVID-19 vaccine at a back-to-school check-up, along with other routine immunizations. If you need a provider, call 1-844-NYC-4NYC and you will be transferred.
We’re so excited to welcome all New York City students back into classrooms in September. Because of vaccination, our buildings will soon be fully open and our young people will be learning. We deeply appreciate the partnership of the city’s families and the commitment to keeping our school communities safe and healthy.

Meisha Porter is chancellor of the Department of Education and Dr. Dave Chokshi, is commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

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