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Thirty-five years after playing the iconic role of Jeanie in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” actor Jennifer Grey is encouraging everyone to learn a thing or two from her infamous on-screen brother and take some “me time” when they get their flu shot this season. Courtesy of Sanofi Pasteur / Flu Shot Fridays
  • Actor Jennifer Grey is speaking out about the importance of the flu shot.
  • The flu shot can help lower your chances of spreading the flu to your friends and family, and keep people at increased risk of complications safe.
  • Serious flu-related complications include cardiovascular events, pneumonia, and hospitalization.

When actor Jennifer Grey played Jeanie in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” she was determined to catch Ferris skipping school.

However, 35 years after she performed the iconic role, Grey is encouraging everyone to learn a thing or two from her infamous on-screen brother.

She wants you to take a day off for your own health and wellness by prioritizing the flu shot.

Grey partnered with the American Nurses Association (ANA) and Sanofi Pasteur to support their campaign, Flu Shot Fridays, an unbranded educational campaign designed to drive awareness of the importance of flu vaccination and create urgency to get vaccinated.

“Why not take any chance you can to treat yourself to a quality day, and aside from health and wellness, give yourself something practical on the day to do something fun?” Grey told Healthline.

Just like Ferris and friends visited the Chicago Art Institute and Wrigley Field during their “me time,” Grey is suggesting following their lead by planning a day to receive your flu shot and have some fun, too.

“There’s a way to bring some lightness into [this], because there’s so much heaviness [right now]. I think if everybody just grabbed a friend and said, ‘Let’s get our flu shot and let’s go out and do something fun together’ or ‘Let’s play a game’ or ‘Let’s cook’ or ‘Let’s have a walk on the beach or a hike with the dogs’… I think that’s a nice way to think about it,” she said.

However, having had the flu before, Grey said she does take the campaign seriously.

“[When] I have the flu, I literally cannot believe how bad I feel, like I’ve been hit by a truck and that I’ll never feel good again… and just feeling like I never want to have this again,” she said.

Ernest Grant, PhD, registered nurse and president of the ANA, said that the flu vaccine remains one of the best defenses against influenza infections.

He said getting the vaccine is especially important as pandemic masking and physical distancing measures loosen up, and more people become exposed to influenza after a year of low cases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from September 2020 to August 2021, there were about 2,000 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in the United States.

This is far fewer than the more than 200,000 lab-confirmed cases the United States typically sees in that time frame.

If influenza cases spike this flu season while COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths surge in many areas of the country, an already overwhelmed healthcare system may become more overwhelmed.

“That’s why it’s imperative for every eligible person and all healthcare professionals to get the flu shot this year to help reduce the burden on our healthcare community,” Grant told Healthline.

Hannah Newman, director of epidemiology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, agrees. She said the pandemic proved that human behavior has an extraordinary impact on the spread of viruses.

She said the record number of flu vaccine doses distributed in the United States during the 2020-21 influenza season, in combination with COVID-19 prevention measures such as staying home when sick, wearing a mask, physical distancing, and washing hands, all played a part in creating a historically low 2020-21 flu season.

Doing the same this flu season could avoid an influx of people in hospitals and a “fluvid” and “twindemic.”

Serious flu-related complications include cardiovascular events, pneumonia, and hospitalizations.

“Every case of flu that requires hospitalization also takes away from those affected by car crashes, cancer, and other serious illnesses. An influx of patients creates even more of a danger when the other hospitals around you are also at capacity, leading to transfers across long distances, cities, and states when a patient is in need of care,” Newman told Healthline.

She said lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic can help keep everyone safe during the upcoming respiratory illness season and seasons to come.

The flu can cause more complications with age. According to the CDC, approximately 90 percent of influenza-related deaths and 50 to 70 percent of influenza-related hospitalizations occur among people 65 and older.

As a woman in her 60s, Grey takes this to heart.

“For people who are 50 and older like me… and people with chronic health conditions… it is so much more likely that you will suffer complications. It’s just not a couple of sick days,” Grey said.

“The thing is, we’ve all been reading about the overcrowding of hospitals… we can mitigate that and make sure that at least flu isn’t going to add to that burden,” she said.

Newman added that a third of people ages 50 to 64 have comorbidities that put them at higher risk of severe flu-related complications.

“September and October are a great time for older adults to get their flu shot so that they are well protected in time for the start of flu season, but not too early to risk waning immunity towards the end of the season,” she said.

However, Newman noted that other populations are at risk, too.

For instance, the flu is more dangerous than common colds for young children. Each year the flu places a burden on children younger than 5 as well as those younger than 18 who have chronic health conditions.

Influenza is also more likely to cause serious complications during pregnancy, and is also harmful to a developing baby, said Newman.

“It’s important for pregnant women to receive their flu shot (not nasal spray), which protects both the pregnant parent and the baby. In fact, antibodies from the vaccine are passed to a developing baby during pregnancy,” she said.

When parents, siblings, and others who are around the baby are vaccinated, they provide protection for babies under 6 months old who are not eligible for vaccination, added Newman.

Before planning your “Flu Shot Friday” with friends, Grey recommends reaching out to your doctor with questions about influenza and to determine which flu vaccine is best for you.

“I do my own research and everyone’s choice is obviously their own, and that’s part of the beautiful thing that we all get to make our own decisions and do what’s right for us,” Grey said.

However, she urges you to think of the flu vaccine as a way to protect yourself and those you love.

“[For] me, I’m just concerned about not only keeping myself safe, but my mother and father and my community, and older people around me, and people with health conditions around me safe. And if I can keep myself safe, then I have a better chance of not infecting them,” Grey said.