Flu vaccinations increase, cases decrease


Colorado Department of

Public Health and Environment

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has prioritized the importance of flu vaccination this flu season, as requested by Gov. Jared Polis, as a way to minimize additional stress and burden on Colorado’s health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The CDPHE implemented activities to leverage existing and new partnerships to expand access to flu vaccination, performed targeted programming to increase flu vaccination rates and implemented policies that promoted increased vaccine access and patient engagement.

As of Jan. 12, more than 2 million Coloradans have gotten their flu vaccine, a 16.3 percent increase from the same time last year. The increased number of flu vaccinations, in conjunction with public health protocols that mitigate the spread of COVID-19, correspond to an overall drop in the number of people presenting with flu-like illness at outpatient clinics and emergency departments. These contributing factors have also resulted in a significant decrease in flu-related hospitalizations. 

Outpatient clinics have reported that 0.71 percent of their patients have had flu-like illness this season, well below the seasonal baseline of 5.05 percent. Similarly, emergency departments have seen flu-like illness in just 0.62 percent of patient visits, with a baseline of 2.54 percent. So far, only 18 patients have been hospitalized with the flu this season, compared to 3,546 flu-related hospitalizations reported between Sept. 29, 2019, and May 23, 2020.

“The impressive numbers from this flu season so far show that Coloradans have been taking necessary actions to protect their health and the health of their communities,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the CDPHE. “But while flu activity is unusually low at this time, it may still increase in the coming months. It’s not too late to get the flu shot and it’s more important than ever so we can maintain our hospital capacity through the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. We recommend everyone age 6 months and older get the flu vaccine if they have not done so already. It’s the best way to protect against the flu and its potentially serious complications, and prevent further strain on our health care systems.”

The flu season lasts from late September to May and typically peaks around February or March. The CDPHE believes that a combination of higher flu vaccine uptake and adoption of public health protocols has been limiting transmission of the flu this season, and experts note that it is not circulating as predominantly as in previous years.

Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. It’s important to get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms or if you think you may have been exposed. For more information about getting tested, see CDPHE’s Testing for COVID-19 Web page at https://covid19.colorado.gov/testing.

To find out where you can get a flu vaccine, visit vaccinefinder.org.

Continue to stay up to date by visiting covid19.colorado.gov.