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Flu hospitalization is higher for Black Americans this season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest (CDC) data, it’s reporting unusually higher rates of emergency room visits this year.

Flu Hospitalization Rates

Since early December, Black Americans account for 43.9% of influenza virus hospitalizations while just representing 13% of the US population, tripling that of White Americans, which is at 16.5% of hospitalizations. 

In total, the CDC estimates there have been at least 13 million flu-related illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations, and 7,300 deaths across all racial demographics this season. In the last decade, between 140,000 and 710,000 people were hospitalized with the flu each year.

It’s a warning of a possible worsening flu season as the nation approaches the pinnacle of the holiday season, which includes Christmas and Kwanzaa gatherings, among other events.

Flu hospitalization higher for Black Americans than other groups - CDC
The Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network (FluSurv-NET)

“The communities at the highest risk for flu and COVID are older people and also communities of color and those with other risk factors in place. Things like having respiratory issues or being obese are things that can put you at higher risk,” Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Munoz of The White House told The Black Wall Street Times. 

The CDC also says influenza has been exceptionally burdensome against young children and the elderly. In December alone, 7 pediatric flu-related deaths have been reported, bringing this flu season’s pediatric-death total to 21. A flu shot or vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with certain chronic health conditions. 

Although vaccination may not prevent infection or simple coughs or sneezes, the CDC says it can reduce the severity of symptoms and reduce flu hospitalization risk due to having contracted the flu virus.

Inequity and Mistrust from Black Americans

The Assistant Press Secretary also added, “We know people of color, high-risk and vulnerable communities are often the groups that don’t have access to the highest health care. And that’s why it was really important for the President, very early on, to make sure that equity was rooted in our COVID response. It was really important that we brought vaccines directly to the communities that may not have that ready access. And that is a symptom of, you know, what is a country that needs to do more work on equity in our health system. So the important thing that we can do right now is to make sure that folks know across the board about the importance of getting that shot and that that shot is safe, effective, free.”

Regardless that flu vaccines prevent millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year, 48% of Black adults, however, express little or no confidence in the safety of flu and COVID-19 vaccinations in comparison to 35% of White adults. Historical mistrust due to the Tuskegee Experiment and other unethical medical practices against Black Americans and communities of color continue to have added to today’s lack of confidence in flu and COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Black Wall Street Times Editor-in-Chief Nehemiah D. Frank spoke with Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Munoz of The White House on this year’s flu outbreak, which is adversely impacting Black Americans at a higher rate of hospitalizations than other groups:

— The Black Wall Street Times (@TheBWSTimes) December 12, 2022

Benefits of Getting Your Flu Shot

Nevertheless, the CDC says, the benefits of getting vaccinated is that it:

  • Can keep you from getting sick with flu.
  • Has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick.
  • Can reduce the risk of flu hospitalization.
  • Is an important preventive tool for people with certain chronic health conditions.
  • During pregnancy helps protect pregnant people from flu during and after pregnancy and helps protect their infants from flu in their first few months of life.
  • Can be lifesaving in children.
  • Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.

Two programs have been implemented by the CDC over the past two years to address vaccination barriers and promote flu vaccination among people from racial and ethnic minorities: the Partnering for Vaccine Equity (P4VE) program and a targeted flu vaccination campaign.

For more information on the flu and various other respiratory viruses, visit the CDC’s website.

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times and a descendant of two families that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Although his publication’s store and newsroom...