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Influenza is responsible for many hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. each year. Annual influenza vaccination is recommended in the U.S. for all individuals aged 6 months or older. Influenza immunization rates are typically low nationwide and in Wisconsin (<50% on average). Furthermore, significant disparities exist in influenza vaccination rates.
These low and disparate influenza immunization rates leave many vulnerable to severe illness and death from influenza each year. This could be particularly devastating this influenza season because of the concurrent COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to severely impact human life (e.g., illnesses, deaths, food insecurity, and job loss) and healthcare resources (e.g., shortages in personal protective equipment, ventilators, and hospital beds).
Given the public health ramifications of the concurrent spread of COVID-19 and influenza, interventions are needed, now more than ever, to improve influenza vaccination rates and to reduce disparities in these rates. In light of this need, the Wisconsin Immunization Program is inviting community groups in Wisconsin to apply for funding to support influenza-related outreach (i.e., communication and education) to community groups that have been marginalized and underserved by health care and public health systems and have been disproportionately affected by influenza and/or COVID-19. This work should aim to increase knowledge and awareness of factors such as:
- How influenza spreads.
- The risks associated with influenza infections.
- The safety and effectiveness of influenza vaccine.
- That receiving influenza immunizations is a normative behavior.
- Dispelling common myths about influenza or its vaccines.
- Where to access influenza vaccines, particularly if uninsured or underinsured.
Doing so will facilitate downstream improvements in influenza vaccination rates and the disparities that exist in these rates.