MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) officials are urging Wisconsin residents to get vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible. Annual flu vaccines are important, but reducing illness and hospitalization from flu is critical this year to protect frontline health care workers and hospital systems who will continue to care for people with COVID-19.

“Now more than ever, getting your flu vaccine is one of the most important and proactive steps you can take to protect yourself, the people you love, and people around you,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Getting sick from the flu could result in hospitalization at a time when our frontline health workers are doing all they can to help COVID-19 patients recover.”

Last flu season, 42% of Wisconsinites received at least one dose of flu vaccine, leaving nearly two-thirds of people at higher risk of getting the flu. During Wisconsin’s 2019-2020 influenza season, there were 36,175 flu cases reported, 4,425 flu-related hospitalizations and 183 deaths, including three children. Last year, Wisconsin saw the highest number of pregnant women hospitalized for influenza.

Flu season is right around the corner in Wisconsin and it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to protect you against the virus. People may contact their health care provider to schedule an appointment, or checking with a local pharmacy. People can also use vaccinefinder.gov or call 211 to find a provider. If cost is a concern, children may be eligible for the Wisconsin Vaccines for Children program.

“Both influenza and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses, but until we have a vaccine against COVID-19, the way to help prevent these two viruses from circulating at the same time is to get your flu vaccine now,” Palm said. “We all need to do everything possible to make a difference this flu season, so let’s keep people flu-free while we focus on ending COVID-19.”

To help increase flu vaccine rates statewide, the Department of Health Services announced new funding for community organizations to reach out to underserved communities. DHS will award $950,000, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to five to 10 organizations, each receiving up to $200,000.