On Sept. 17, Cardinal Cupich and the Archdiocese of Chicago launched a media campaign urging people to get a flu shot this season.
“We have faced unprecedented challenges this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Loved ones have sickened and, in some cases died. We have had to adjust to drastic changes in the way we live our lives,” Cardinal Cupich wrote in a letter to parishes. “As Catholics committed to defending life, we are called to take responsibility for the welfare and safety of our community. This year, that means wearing a mask, washing our hands and taking other precautions to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.”
“Archdiocese of Chicago personnel have worked hard these past few months to plan and execute preventive measures so we could open our churches and schools safely. All our hard work might have less impact though, if we don’t take one more step and get our influenza immunizations as soon as possible,” he wrote.
More than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year with the flu, the cardinal noted.
“While it’s known as the common flu, there’s really nothing common about influenza in 2020. Without a doubt, this will be the most important flu shot you will ever receive. In the coming weeks, we will witness a convergence of both viruses — influenza and COVID-19,” he wrote. “Let’s roll up our sleeves and take this simple step. You may save a life. You will certainly help make this unprecedented year less deadly for our community.”
The flu vaccination campaign includes a video message from Cardinal Cupich, posters for churches and schools and flyers for parishioners and school families to be distributed via email and social media. The materials focus on the importance of being vaccinated, provide links to public health information and a vaccine finder for locating flu shot sources in each ZIP code.
Campaign materials, including Cardinal Cupich’s video and letter, can be viewed at archchicago.org/news-and-events/flu-2020.
Dr. Alfredo Mena Lora, medical director of infection prevention at St. Anthony Hospital, said that even though the flu vaccine is for only one strain of the virus each year, it is still important to get it.
“Even when this is somewhat mismatched, you reduce your risk of getting influenza and, importantly, you reduce the risk of getting influenza that is severe. Even if you get the flu after a vaccination you are much less likely to be critically ill or to die,” Mena Lora said.
While it’s important for older people, especially those with other health issues, to get the vaccine, it’s also important for younger people to get it.
“For young people that are less likely to develop severe influenza and die, similar to what’s happening with COVID-19, those folks are more likely to give it to other people who are older and more likely to have severe consequences,” Mena Lora said. “So by getting the influenza shot, no matter who you are, we are less likely as a community to have transmission from each other.”
During COVID-19 it is extremely important to get the vaccine because hospitals can be easily overwhelmed if they see many admissions for both COVID-19 and the flu.
“It’s important every year to get the influenza vaccine but in a year when PPE and resources are strained by a larger pandemic, it’s important to try to reduce that element,” he said.
Having support from community leaders like Cardinal Cupich around getting the flu vaccine is helpful to the medical community.
“Vaccines tend to be the victims of their own success. It is very important for communities to have people that they trust and people that they know deliver the facts,” he said. “I think if it comes from people in the community like parishes, priests, schools, family members, then I think it’s easier to get the message across.”
When Cardinal Cupich joined other clergy in publicly receiving a COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 23 at St. Anthony Hospital, it marked the beginning of an archdiocesan campaign to encourage everyone to be vaccinated when they are able to.
The past nights I have watched in great personal pain as the pent-up anger of our people caught fire across our country. I saw the city where I was born, the cities where I have lived, the city I pastor now, catch embers from the city where I was educated and burn. Was I horrified at the violence? Yes. But was I surprised? No.
The Archdiocese of Chicago welcomed Blase J. Cupich as its ninth archbishop during a Nov. 18 installation Mass that featured several outpourings of applause and gratitude both for Archbishop Cupich and Cardinal Francis George, who became archbishop emeritus of Chicago.