BATON ROUGE, La – Louisiana is seeing a surge in flu cases, with hospitalizations increasing. Around the country, health officials are treating record numbers of patients with respiratory illnesses including flu, COVID-19 and RSV.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana reminds families that the best way to protect yourself and those around you from severe illness is for everyone who can to get their flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines or boosters.
Blue Cross and most other health plans cover flu shots at $0 or very low out-of-pocket cost. COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are covered at $0 out of pocket for eligible members of individual and employer health plans. Eligible members of Medicare and Medicaid plans or uninsured patients also can get a COVID-19 booster vaccine at no cost. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires this no-cost coverage.
“Normally, we see the most flu cases in late winter months. But this year, the flu season started early and has been harsh,” said Blue Cross Medical Director Dr. Emily Vincent. “While we are more familiar with flu than COVID-19, we can’t let our guard down about it being a health threat. Thousands of people die from the flu or have serious complications each year.”
Getting your flu shot as soon as possible – if you have not already – is the best way to lower your risk of death, hospitalization and the worst outcomes, Dr. Vincent said. “The flu shot takes about two weeks to activate in your body, so get the shot now. That way, you’ll be protected as we head into the holiday season and the winter months that are the peak time for illnesses to spread,” she said.
Dr. Vincent shares why “The time is NOW to get your flu shot” in this Health Notes video (00:18).
It’s also important for everyone eligible to get the updated COVID-19 booster shot, called the bivalent booster. “The bivalent boosters, which became available this fall, protect you against the original COVID-19 virus strain and the newer variants that caused the most recent surges,” Dr. Vincent said. “Like the flu shot, COVID-19 vaccines and boosters give you the best protection from the worst outcomes if you are exposed to the virus.”
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Current Flu Shot, COVID-19 Vaccine/Booster Recommendations
• Recommended for everyone six months and older
• Adults 65 and older should ask their health care provider or pharmacist for a higher-dose version of the flu shot for stronger protection
COVID-19 Vaccines and Boosters:
• COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older
• U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone age six months and older get a bivalent COVID-19 booster shot once it’s been two months since their last COVID-19 vaccine or booster
Flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines or boosters are widely available at doctor’s offices, clinics, community health centers, pharmacies, grocery stores and other locations statewide. Visit Vaccines.gov to find a location near you.
If you have questions about vaccine coverage on your health plan, contact Customer Service at the number on your member ID card.
Free Rides for COVID-19, Flu Shots with Blue Bikes
Through Dec. 31, Blue Cross is sponsoring a free ride promotion with Blue Bikes, New Orleans’ bikeshare program. Riders can use code SleevesUp for two free, 30-minute rides to travel to and from their preferred flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine or booster locations.
You must be 18 or older to ride Blue Bikes. Each individual rider can only use this code one time through Dec. 31. The Blue Bikes free ride code is only valid for trips to and from vaccine sites that are located within the bikeshare program’s service area.
Visit www.BlueBikesNOLA.com or follow Blue Bikes on social media @BlueBikesNOLA to see a map of bike locations.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We have been recognized for the past four years as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media @BCBSLA.