Last year, Coloradans turned out in record numbers to get their flu shot. This year, not so much

David Goldman/AP
Nurse Nicole Simpson prepares a flu shot from a vaccine vile at the Salvation Army in Atlanta, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018.

After a record number of people got vaccinated for the flu by this time last year, Coloradans aren’t keeping up the pace.

“We are behind where we were last year,” said Heather Roth, immunization branch chief at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Colorado saw 1.8 million people get the flu vaccine at this point in 2020. This year, 1.5 million Coloradans have been vaccinated so far.

The big concern is that hospitals are already slammed treating coronavirus patients, and a spike in flu cases would not help. Flu can be severe, especially for older adults, and require hospitalization. The virus is circulating in the state now, but so far hasn't yet led to hospitalizations.

Roth said the state is running a statewide ad campaign to urge people to protect themselves and health care workers.

“Getting your flu vaccine can help reduce stress on our already stressed health care system,” she said, encouraging everybody “six months of age and older to get their annual flu vaccine to prevent that from happening.”

The state has 15 mobile vaccine buses where residents can get shots. They're also available in other locations, like doctor's offices and pharmacies. The CDC advises it's safe to get shots for flu and COVID-19 at the same time. 

“It's really safe to get your flu vaccine and your COVID primary series or your COVID booster dose on the same day,” Roth said.

Flu seasons can be unpredictable and can peak at different times. 

According to the state health department’s website, Colorado has recorded 17 hospitalizations since Oct. 3, no outbreaks in long-term care facilities and no pediatric deaths.

Three flu-related hospitalizations were reported the week ending Nov. 27.

So far this flu season, hospitalizations for influenza are being dwarfed by COVID-19 hospitalizations. The monthly hospitalization rate for flu was 0.10 per 100,000 in October. For COVID-19, it was 69.0 per 100,000.