'Our vaccine rate is abysmal:' 200+ flu hospitalizations in Milwaukee County, compared to 46 in 2019

WAUWATOSA -- While getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu, FOX6 News learned Jan. 15 that most people in the Milwaukee area -- and across Wisconsin -- haven't gotten one.

The flu is taking the U.S. by storm. More than 30 states -- including Wisconsin -- are reporting high flu activity levels.

Dr. Joyce Sanchez

"We are in the thick of it right now," said Dr. Joyce Sanchez, assistant professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The highly-contagious virus hit early and hard. Experts at the Medical College of Wisconsin said Americans have done little to protect themselves.

"Our vaccine rate is abysmal this year," said Dr. Sanchez. "We're at about 35% of individuals in the state of Wisconsin being vaccinated, as opposed to 70% or more, which is our goal."

Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to prevent influenza, but still, few people make getting the shot a priority.

Lindsey Page

"Sometimes it takes the person getting the flu to know how bad it is and get vaccinated to prevent it again in the future," said Lindsey Page with the Milwaukee Health Department.

Vaccines are offered for free at three clinics in Milwaukee. All you have to do is show up and roll up your sleeve.

"There really is no excuse," said Page.

The sooner you're vaccinated, the better. Health officials said Wednesday there was no indication the flu had peaked locally.

"We can certainly see a second spike in influenza," said Dr. Sanchez.

Officials said this year's vaccine appeared to be a good match for Influenza A, but not as effective at preventing Influenza B. However, experts said getting the shot will still reduce the time you're sick and the severity of your symptoms.