Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie

HARTFORD, CT — Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz shakes a lot of hands, which is just one of the reasons she went to Planned Parenthood Thursday to get her annual flu shot.

Bysieiwicz, who was acting governor for a few hours Thursday while Gov. Ned Lamont was in Rhode Island, said there were 3,300 Connecticut residents hospitalized with the flu during last year’s flu season. Another 78 Connecticut residents died from the flu between Aug. 2019=8 and May 2019, according to the Department of Public Health.

“That’s why the Centers for Disease Control recommends anyone between the ages of 6 months to senior citizens to get a flu shot,” Bysiewicz said.

Ticking off two political boxes with one visit, Bysiewicz got her flu shot at Planned Parenthood in Hartford.

There are 16 Planned Parenthood clinics in the state of Connecticut and one in Rhode Island that offer reproductive services and a full range of comprehensive health services to 78,000 patients annually.

Flu shots are just part of the comprehensive healthcare offered by the clinic, which also serves men as patients—a tidbit that surprised Bysiewicz.

Amina Carter, the physician assistant who administered the flu shot to Bysiewicz, said they give about 550 flu shots a year at their clinics. The flu shot is also part of good prenatal care and any pregnant woman is encouraged to get one.

Only about 57 percent of the total population got the vaccine last year, a jump of 10 percentage points from the previous year.

Bysiewicz said she was happy to highlight the good work Planned Parenthood does in supporting women, but it’s also important to highlight the importance of vaccination.

She said vaccinations are extremely important to help improve herd immunity especially in the school.

The Department of Public Health recently released school-by-school data that found 149 schools in the state with herd immunity levels for measles, mumps, and rubella below the 95% recommended by the CDC.

Bysiewicz said she’s going to work to remove the religious exemption to vaccinations and is concerned with the trend, which shows fewer students receiving the MMR vaccine.

In Connecticut, exemptions to vaccination can either be for medical reasons as approved by a physician, or for religious reasons as stated by a child’s parent or guardian.

Connecticut’s second release of school-by-school data also shows that the number of religious exemptions to vaccinations has increased.

In August, the state reported that use of the religious exemptions from the MMR vaccine for kindergarteners had increased from 2% to 2.5%. Public health officials said it’s the largest single-year increase in religious exemptions for vaccinations since the state started tracking the statewide data a decade ago.

According to data released last week by the CDC, the national rate for non-medical exemptions for kindergarteners was 2.2%, placing Connecticut above the national rate by 0.3%.