It was the Holiday season and school was out, so Eugenia had the opportunity to visit and spend quality time with her grandchildren. Her youngest, who was five years old and on break from kindergarten, had what seemed to be a mild case of the sniffles, but she was Eugenia’s favorite and that was not going to stop her from hugging, snuggling and spending time together. Almost a week after that visit, Eugenia started to feel under the weather. She thought that she might have caught a bug that the kids brought home from school, but it wouldn’t be the first time and thought it would pass. Eugenia hadn’t gotten around to getting her flu vaccine yet that year, and she had type 2 diabetes – a disease that is all too familiar to the Black community. As the days passed, it became obvious that Eugenia had the flu, and she was struggling to control her glucose levels. She knew how much insulin she was supposed to take as well as what she should and should not be eating, but she didn’t know that when a person is sick, their body manufactures additional glucose to provide energy to fight infection, and that the body releases stress hormones that can reduce the effectiveness of insulin.
After not being able to get her glucose levels under control, Eugenia’s next visit was to a hospital. She experienced diabetic ketoacidosis, then pneumonia, then kidney failure and finally multiple organ failure. Eugenia didn’t make it home from the hospital, and her family was left wondering what if she had gotten vaccinated against the flu before visiting the kids? What if all the grandchildren and the entire family had been vaccinated against the flu?
Eugenia was one of 42.9 million people in the U.S. who caught the flu that year, and one of approximately 52,000 people who died. A disproportionate number of these deaths were among adults who were Black, and there could be a number of reasons for this disparity. Black adults have lower rates of immunizations against the flu than white adults. The CDC reports that less than 43 percent of Black men and women were vaccinated during the 2021-2022 flu season. Additionally, people who have chronic disease are more likely to suffer complications, be hospitalized and die from the flu. Black adults have higher rates of heart disease and diabetes than their white counterparts, and during the 2021-2022 flu season, flu hospitalization rates were 80 percent higher among Black adults than white adults.
Many people miss opportunities to vaccinate, and many times it turns out to be regrettable, but misinformation and vaccine distrust should never be the reason a person loses their life to the flu. The flu vaccine has been proven to be safe for most people over the age of six months. There are even safe alternatives for children and adults with certain allergies and sensitivities. Flu vaccines are easily accessible via pharmacies, shopping super centers, at doctor’s offices and clinics, and they are available at no cost to people with health insurance. Most importantly, decisions to vaccinate should always be based on credible information: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/flu-vaccine.html.
Amerigroup Maryland is a huge supporter of flu vaccination and offers assistance to people who need help accessing vaccines or information. Amerigroup offers a website where members or guests can search for care providers who administer vaccines: https://findcare.amerigroup.com/search-providers. Amerigroup also offers its member help by phone: 1-800-600-4441 (TTY 711). Additionally, Amerigroup members may be eligible for gift card rewards – just for getting vaccinated against the flu. To read more about Amerigroup Maryland’s Healthy Rewards, visit https://www.myamerigroup.com/md/benefits/medicaid-healthchoice-benefits.html.
Thousands of lives can be saved if individuals and their families get vaccinated against the flu. Eugenia’s family will always wonder how things could have been different if their entire family had been vaccinated. Take action today to catch up on your vaccines, so your family doesn’t have to experience the tragedy Eugenia’s did – or be left wondering.
Amerigroup Maryland Updates and Reminders:
On January 1, 2023, Amerigroup Community Care, also known as Amerigroup Maryland, will begin operating as Wellpoint. There will be no change to members’ coverage as a result of this name change. Until January 1, 2023, members can continue to use their Amerigroup ID cards to access benefits as they always have. Amerigroup members should expect to receive updated materials and more information about this change by early December 2022. Learn more by visiting: https://www.myamerigroup.com/md/mdmd_caid_faqwellpointrebrand.pdf.