The Wash
Columbia Heights resident Emmanuel Akagboso is vaccinated against COVID-19, but has not yet gotten his flu shot yet. He is still deciding where to get the flu shot. (Kahindo Musungira / The Wash)

Despite getting COVID-19 vaccine, Columbia Heights residents question need for flu shot

Columbia Heights leads the District in COVID-19 cases and over half of residents are vaccinated against the coronavirus. But people have mixed feelings about getting the flu shot this season.

For Columbia Heights resident Celeste Dickson, this year wasn’t any different when it came time to get her annual flu shot.

Dickson, a health practitioner, is not required to get the flu shot because of her job but she always makes the decision to protect herself against the influenza virus.

“I have always got my flu shot because I work in health care,” she said.

But Dickson said she can’t say the same for others.. She said she has seen a limited increase in other Columbia Heights residents getting their flu shots this year despite the neighborhood having the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the District.

“There is so much work to be done,” she said.

Over half of Columbia Heights residents, around 53%, have received the COVID-19 vaccine, but many of those interviewed for this story were not as enthusiastic about scheduling their flu shot.

The Wash asked 10 Columbia Heights residents who all received the COVID-19 vaccine about their plans to receive a flu shot. Half had already received a flu shot.

Three residents have not received a flu shot yet, but are planning to get vaccinated for this upcoming season. Two said they will not be getting the influenza vaccine despite increased health risks with the pandmeic.

Pharmacies are expecting to supply 188 million to 200 million doses of flu shots this year, according to the data from the CDC. The U.S. distributed around 194 million doses during the 2020-2021 flu season.

Columbia Heights has 2,842 positive COVID-19 cases, the most in the District. Some residents said the pandemic has pushed them to get their flu shot.

“I never got the flu shot before but this year my doctor recommended that I get the flu shot due to COVID,” Columbia Heights resident Jasmine Landrin said.

Landrin, a nursing student at Howard University, said she is vaccinated against COVID-19 and got the flu shot this year as a direct result of the pandemic.

Others, like resident Dean Kim, said they do not have any plans to receive a flu shot. Kim, a paralegal, said he has never gotten a flu shot in his entire life.

“My mom never made me get one and I never questioned it,” he said. “I do not feel threatened by the flu at all.”

Andie Rowe has 25 years of experience in health promotion and is director of Employee Wellness at American University. She said she has seen little to no increase in individuals receiving flu shots since the start of the pandemic.

Rowe said American University is holding flu shot clinics on campus in a push for staff members to get vaccinated. Despite not noticing a big change, Rowe said she has seen more families coming in for vaccines.

“Health care programs that work with schools have been creating new ways for schools to get flu shots this year earlier than they did before the pandemic,” Rowe said.

Celeste Dickson, the health practitioner, said she knows how important it is to be vaccinated against the flu. “I am not worried about what is in the [flu] vaccine, it is very safe,” Dickson said.

Walgreens, CVS and Safeway are some of the places that are offering free flu shots in Columbia Heights.

Kahindo Musungira

I am a broadcast and storytelling journalist earning my master’s at American University. I am interested in covering equity and social justice issues.

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