DALLAS, October 14, 2020 – As the nation continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, leading national public health organizations warn that this year’s influenza (flu) season amid the pandemic may pose a looming double threat for the health of Americans. The American Lung Association, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have joined together to encourage flu vaccination, alerting the public that the addition of the flu as another respiratory illness on top of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could overburden the healthcare system and increase the risk of catching both diseases at once.

The flu alone can result in complications, hospitalizations and can even be deadly, especially for those with chronic health conditions. During the 2019-2020 season, more than 400,000 people were hospitalized due to the flu, and 66% of those were adults over 50, a population that is more likely to have at least one underlying medical condition like lung or heart disease or diabetes that placed them at high-risk for complications.[1] Annual flu vaccination has been shown to mitigate these risks in adults — reducing the chance of hospitalization by 37% and reducing the risk of admission to the intensive care unit by 82%.[2]

Many people at higher risk from flu also seem to be at higher risk from COVID-19. COVID-19 has infected more than 7.8 million and killed more than 215,000 U.S. residents. The flu is also deadly, and it’s important to protect your health from both the flu and COVID-19 this fall. While we do not yet have a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, we do have a flu vaccine. Three top-tier non-profit health organizations encourage everyone to make annual flu vaccination a priority and also call on healthcare professionals to talk to their patients about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations.

“Vaccinations can save lives, and are an important step to protect not only your own health, but to also prevent the spread of disease to those who might be more vulnerable, such as those with chronic lung diseases,” said American Lung Association chief medical officer Albert Rizzo, M.D. “COVID-19 has been a reminder of the vital importance of lung health. And while we still await the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, we already have available a safe and effective vaccine for influenza – the flu shot. I encourage all Americans, and especially adults with chronic health conditions, to get their flu shot this year and every year.”

The flu vaccine is a protective tool against influenza and it is an essential preventative health management step for people living with diabetes, heart disease and lung disease. Yet, only 48% of adults were vaccinated in the 2019-2020 season.[3] Urgent action is needed to increase flu immunization rates in 2020 and to educate Americans on the importance of preventative measures like vaccination against infectious respiratory diseases.

“The flu is a serious matter, and it can be prevented.  Getting the flu can lead to complications with bad consequences, including intensive care and death, especially for people with cardiovascular disease. In fact, several studies have  found that individuals with heart disease are 6 to 10 times more likely to have a heart attack following a bout of the flu,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., MPH, FAAFP, American Heart Association chief medical officer for prevention. “Flu vaccination should be part of routine medical care for all individuals but especially so for those with heart disease.”

“People with diabetes experience more hyperglycemic events, and substantial increases in pneumonia, sepsis and coronary heart disease after being diagnosed with the flu,” said Robert Gabbay, M.D., Ph.D., American Diabetes Association chief scientific & medical officer. “Additionally, if an individual does get the flu, being vaccinated may help make their symptoms milder and help avoid more serious health consequences.”

The American Lung Association, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association offer educational resources about the burden of flu and increased need for vaccination among people with chronic health conditions. And throughout the flu season, the Lung Association, AHA and ADA will be sharing the personal stories of individuals affected by the flu, resources on how to find the closest vaccine provider and debunk myths.

Free, downloadable information on flu and chronic health conditions is also available through the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

About the American Diabetes Association

Every day more than 4,000 people are newly diagnosed with diabetes in America. More than 122 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes and are striving to manage their lives while living with the disease. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization fighting to bend the curve on the diabetes epidemic and help people living with diabetes thrive. For 80 years the ADA has been driving discovery and research to treat, manage and prevent diabetes, while working relentlessly for a cure. We help people with diabetes thrive by fighting for their rights and developing programs, advocacy and education designed to improve their quality of life. Diabetes has brought us together. What we do next will make us Connected for Life. To learn more or to get involved, visit us at diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383). Join the fight with us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn).

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.orgFacebookTwitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.  

For Media Inquiries:

Toiya Honore, Toiya.honore@heart.org, (214) 706-1456

For Public Inquiries:

1-800-AHA-USA-1 (242-8721)

Heart.org and Stroke.org