By CBSMiami.com Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Experts say if you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, now is the time. One hospital system is putting the spotlight on racial disparities when it comes to the flu.

Flu vaccination rates are lower in Black and Hispanic people, according to CDC data. For the 2019-2020 season, flu vaccination coverage was 53% among White people, 41% among Black people, and 38% among Hispanic or Latino people. People of color also have higher rates of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from the flu.

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“Immunization is our best defense against influenza,” said Dr. Aaron Clark from The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

The hospital is working to improve access to vaccines and addressing concerns from the community.

“Transparency, engaging the community actively as partners in the process, and being non-judgmental in this is the key to success when you’re trying to resolve disparities,” Dr. Clark said.

The hospital now offers flu shots in the emergency room and in other units, and nurses are calling patients in areas with low vaccination rates.  The flu shot initiative seems to be working. The emergency department at Ohio State gave out 10 times more flu shots to non-White patients last season than the previous one.

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Melanie Hill got a flu shot this year, she started getting one when she was pregnant with her daughter.

“I didn’t see the flu as a threat, really, to my health. I talked with my doctor and my husband, they kind of convinced me of the risks,” she said. “I care about my community. I want to see us thrive and be healthy and I don’t like the fact that there are disparities.”

Hill also received her COVID-19 vaccine but said she was skeptical at first.

“There’s historical mistrust in the Black community. Those issues are valid, think if people, you know, do research and ask questions, we can make informed decisions,” Hill said.

She hopes people choose to protect themselves for what could be a rough winter.

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In October, the director of the CDC warned of a potentially severe flu season this year. Dr. Rochelle Walensky said there were few flu cases last year “largely because of masking and physical distancing and other prevention measures put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic.”

CBSMiami.com Team