Too Many People Avoid One Step to Be Flu-Free

Only one in three upstate New York adults ages 18 to 64 receives an annual flu vaccine, according to new research released today by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

While not everyone who avoids the flu shot or nasal spray gets sick, there were about 16,000 confirmed cases among adults ages 18 and older in upstate New York last year.

"I don't think people take the flu seriously, and they should...many refer to every case of the sniffles accompanied by aches and pains as the 'flu,' but flu is very specific and can be serious."

Jamie Kerr, M.D., Medical Director, Excellus BCBS

“I don’t think people take the flu seriously, and they should,” said Jamie Kerr, M.D., medical director, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Many refer to every case of the sniffles accompanied by aches and pains as the ‘flu,’ but flu is very specific and can be serious.”

Nationwide, flu causes 200,000 hospitalizations and nearly 24,000 deaths each year. 

Flu shots and nasal sprays are among the essential benefits that are covered in full under the Affordable Care Act. They are available at many pharmacies and other sites without an appointment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age six months and older get a flu vaccine annually.

“When it comes to confirmed cases of the flu, upstate New York gets more than its fair share,” said Kerr. “With only a quarter of the state’s population, upstate New York accounts for around 37 percent of the state’s total confirmed cases.” 

Flu activity usually peaks between December and February, but outbreaks can occur as early as October, and activity can last as late as May. “The beautiful weather we’ve had this fall may have lulled people into thinking that it’s not yet flu season, but it is,” Kerr said. 

Common myths may be the reason why two in three upstate New York adults don’t get the vaccine.

Myth:  The flu vaccine isn’t very effective.

Fact:  While the effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies, it’s still the best way to prevent flu or shorten its duration.

Myth:  Flu season has already started. It’s too late to get the vaccine.

Fact:  As long as flu viruses are circulating, it’s not too late to get vaccinated. 

Myth:  I got the flu vaccine last year, so I don’t need it this year.

Fact:  Strains of viruses can change each season, and a person’s immunity declines over time.

Myth:  If I get the flu shot now, it won’t protect me through the entire flu season.

Fact:  Although the immunity provided by the flu vaccine can vary by person, immunity lasts through a full flu season for most people.

Myth:  The flu vaccine can cause the flu.

Fact:  The flu vaccine can’t give you the flu, because the virus it contains has been inactivated or weakened.

Myth:  Washing my hands will protect me from getting the flu.

Fact:  Frequent hand-washing can help slow the spread of germs that cause the flu, but the single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year. 


To access the Excellus BCBS infographic or printable poster, “Facts About The Flu Vaccine,” go to To watch a video about the flu vaccine, go to

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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, a nonprofit independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association, is part of a family of companies that finances and delivers vital health care services to about 1.6 million people across upstate New York. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield provides access to high-quality, affordable health coverage, including valuable health-related resources that our members use every day, such as cost-saving prescription drug discounts and wellness tracking tools. To learn more, visit

Media Contact: Joy Davia Auch, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, 1-585-238-4374