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This Year’s Flu Threat

Alex M. Azar II
Press briefing
February 15, 2018
Washington, D.C.

Given the severity of this year’s [flu] season, I spoke with President Trump about the situation yesterday. We are committed to doing everything we can to make people aware of what they can do to avoid the flu and what they can do once they have it.

As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon, and thank you all for joining us here today.

I first want to say a word about yesterday’s horrific shooting in Florida, and what this administration is doing about these all-too-common tragedies.

I want to express my sympathies and prayers for every victim of the tragedy, and their families.

As a father of two school-aged children, I can scarcely imagine the pain and grief that the community of Parkland feels today.

I echo what the President said this morning about the commitment this administration has to addressing the challenges of serious mental illness in America.

While most Americans with mental illness are not violent—in fact, they are more likely to be victims of crimes themselves—we know that untreated serious mental illness can be associated with acts of violence like we saw yesterday.

The Department of Health and Human Services will be laser-focused on this issue in the days, weeks, and months to come, and it has already been a priority under this administration.

There is a great deal the federal government can do to inform and assist state and local governments, communities, and families in getting Americans with serious mental illness the treatment they need to lead healthy, happy lives.

As Attorney General Sessions mentioned this morning to a group of sheriffs, we need to be working better with law enforcement—too often Americans with untreated serious mental illnesses end up behind bars rather than getting the treatment they need.

Addressing these issues is an existing priority of this administration and of HHS, and we’re going to step up our efforts further.

Now, I want to move on to the topic we had scheduled to discuss here today, the serious threat that this year’s flu presents to our country’s health, and some news we just got from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about this year’s flu season.

The flu is a serious illness that sends hundreds of thousands of Americans to the hospital each year. Most of us have heard that this year’s flu season has been especially severe.

Our hearts go out to every American who is suffering from the flu, and their families supporting them—especially those caring for older relatives or young children.

There is still time for each of us to contribute to fighting the flu this year.

Getting a flu shot, as recommended for every American over 6 months of age, makes you less likely to get the flu and less likely to spread it to those who are most vulnerable, our children and senior citizens.

Let me give you some context on how the flu shot can help. All of us know the risk that comes from letting, for instance, our children ride in the car without buckling their seatbelts.

Getting the flu shot is the same kind of sensible precaution as buckling your seatbelt, and there is still time for these protections to make a difference. 

Given the severity of this year’s season, I spoke with President Trump about the situation yesterday. We are committed to doing everything we can to make people aware of what they can do to avoid the flu and what they can do once they have it. 

I’ve been working closely with America’s top public health experts, here at HHS, to monitor this issue and continue getting the word out. We’ve convened some of these experts here today.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of HHS, released numbers today estimating that this year you’re 36 percent less likely to get the flu and see the doctor if you get a flu shot.

If your young child gets a flu shot, he or she is 59 percent less likely to get the virus and have to go to the doctor.

Moreover, if you got the shot but do end up catching the flu, it can be less severe and less likely to land you in the hospital.

Imagine if you could cut your chances of getting in a car crash by 36 percent, or cut the chances of your child being in a crash by 59 percent. 

On top of that, having the shot is like ensuring, ahead of time, you have your seatbelt buckled or your child in a car seat.

Going to get a flu shot, and getting shots for your young children, is the same kind of commonsense measure—it helps protect you, your family, and your community.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of CDC, which monitors the flu closely every year, is now going to talk some more about findings on this year’s flu season.

Then we’ll hear from Surgeon General Jerome Adams, America’s doctor, who will talk about how to protect yourselves and help prevent spread of the flu.

Also on hand to answer questions are Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, which helps oversee the development of the flu shot, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is leading the effort toward developing a universal flu vaccine; and Dr. Robert Kadlec, our Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, which invests in developing new flu vaccines.

These experts all agree: Going out to get a flu shot will help protect you this flu season.

I’ve gotten a flu shot, my wife has, and my two kids have. So has President Trump.

In fact, I’m not letting anyone behind this podium today who hasn’t gotten the flu shot.

There’s still plenty of time. Go get a flu shot. Do it for yourself, your family, and your community. 

Now let me introduce Dr. Schuchat for a more in-depth briefing on today’s new information and the current flu situation.

Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)
Content last reviewed on February 15, 2018