Nov. 2, 2022 -- When Jason Alexander performed in the musical Jerome Robbins’ Broadway in 1989, he got the flu. 

Turns out, not getting the flu vaccine that year almost cost him a Tony award.

“I missed six performances because my flu turned into bronchitis,” says Alexander, who has asthma and is best known for his role as George Costanza in Seinfeld. “I’ll never forget how the producers said ‘I don’t care how sick you are, get back on stage.’ I spent a solid week trying to do a very physically taxing show with bronchitis.”

Though Alexander did go on to win the Tony, he never missed his annual flu shot again. That experience is just one reason he’s participating in a new flu campaign, a partnership between the American Nurses Association and flu vaccine maker Sanofi.

Entitled “Not Today, Flu,” the campaign features Alexander encouraging people to get vaccinated and urge their loved ones to get a flu shot, too.

This is all the more pressing as flu season is in full swing and experts are now warning of a "tridemic" this winter as COVID-19 restrictions have been eased. The CDC reports that this year’s flu season is coming on strong and early. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 22, 443 flu-related hospitalizations were reported in the agency’s surveillance network, the highest number of hospitalizations reported at this time of the season in 10 years.

“With so much talk about vaccinations over the past 2 years, I understand why people are either avoiding or are hesitant about vaccinations,” Alexander says.  “But there’s concern in the medical community that this could be a devastating flu season if people don’t inoculate.”

The goal of getting vaccinated: To keep people out of the hospital and avoid respiratory complications.

Turns out, Alexander knows a thing or two about hospital life. His mom was a nurse and he was often around sick people who were struggling to regain their health.

“I grew up in and around the hospital where she worked,” he says. “I worked as a dishwasher and in the laundry room there. My mother would have been very happy if I gravitated toward the medical field, but I’m a functional idiot, so I went into this instead.”

Ultimately, Alexander has just one message: Go get your shot as quickly as possible, especially with the holiday season right around the corner.

“Because we’ve been in a pandemic and everybody has been staying away from each other, we’ve lost some of our natural immunity to the flu,” Alexander says. “This might be the first holiday season since the pandemic began that people are getting together with loved ones. Why derail that because you’re laid up with the flu!”

And rest assured: The flu shot is safe.

“There are no horror stories about the flu shot,” he says. “It’s been around your whole life, it’s been well tested, and it definitely won’t make keys stick to your forehead.”

To find a flu shot near you, visit NotTodayFlu.

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SOURCES: 

Jason Alexander. 

CDC: “Early Wave of Flu Brings Early Flu Hospitalizations.”

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