Flu season 2022: Chicago health officials urge residents to get flu shots, COVID boosters as cases in children flood hospitals


CHICAGO (WLS) — Chicago health officials are pleading with people to get the most recent COVID booster and a flu shot.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady wore a Halloween costume and had a crystal ball prop with her during a Friday news conference. She is predicting a surge in COVID cases as the city approaches colder months like November and December when more people are inside.

Arwady said the statistics are already starting to trend in that direction but for now the city is at a low COVID level. Currently 15 to 20 Chicago residents are being hospitalized for COVID every day, Arwady said.

Dr. Arwady also urged Chicagoans to get their flu shots including children, as hospitals locally and nationally are full of pediatric patients with respiratory illness.

“My crystal ball says ‘get your kids vaccinated please,'” Arwady said. “We don’t have a vaccine for RSV, but we do have a vaccine for influenza which also hits young kids very hard.”

According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, only 14.6% of eligible Chicagoans have received the omicron-specific vaccine.

“We expect the winter of 2022-2023 to see another surge in COVID and probably another surge in COVID deaths,” Arwady said.

Dr. Arwady said if you 5 years old and older and have not had a COVID shot since Labor Day, you are due for one now. If not, Arwady fears another variant may emerge.

“We are especially concerned for Latinx and Black Chicagoans who have born the brunt of COVID pandemic and are the least protected,” Arwady said.

Only 14% of Latino residents and 17% of Black Chicagoans have received the new booster, compared to 57% of white residents.

“African American Community, c’mon, we are better than 17%,” said Pastor Chris Harris at Bright Star Church.

As he rolled up his sleeve, Pastor Chris Harris called on faith leaders to use the pulpit this Sunday to urge their members to get vaccinated.

In the meantime, Dr. Arwady is calling on parents to get their kids the both vaccines, especially the flu shot.

“Parents are less likely to be getting their children vaccinated against flu this year,” Arwady said. “That is a really bad combination. Different from COVID, flu hits kids hard.”

Dr. Arwady said that between the flu, COVID, RSV and other illnesses, there are less than 10 pediatric ICU beds available in Chicago and the respiratory virus season hasn’t officially kicked in yet.

CDPH also announced it’s extending the flu and COVID booster clinics through December and urge people to take advantage of the free vaccines while they remain.

Nationwide, the flu season has started earlier this year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, flu hospitalizations, at this point, are the highest in over a decade.

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