As fall and the flu season begin during the COVID-19 pandemic, medical experts are stressing the importance of receiving the influenza vaccine.
Joseph Starrs, pharmacist/manager at VG’s Pharmacy off Silver Parkway, said they’ve been administering the flu vaccine for a few weeks now.
“The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the virus,” he said, adding that the flu can lead to hospitalization and severe respiratory issues. “We want to prevent it.”
Older people and those with underlying illnesses are at greater risk for the virus.
“The flu vaccine is serious every year. It’s something you don’t hear about all the time. You can have thousands of deaths just from the flu. If we can give the flu shot and help prevent some of that, it’s great,” Starrs said.
The vaccine has been highlighted this year due to the pandemic, he said, but it’s important to get the flu shot every year.
More people are wearing masks inside while in public because of COVID, which Starrs said could help prevent the flu from transmitting. Both viruses are transmitted by water droplets, and masks have shown to help slow the spread.
“People should be aware that the flu virus is still a very serious thing,” he said.
An appointment is not necessary to receive the shot at VG’s Pharmacy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released information and guidelines on the upcoming flu season and how it will be affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever,” according to the CDC.
Efforts to slow the spread, including stay-at-home orders, have led to a decrease in people seeking routine preventive medical services, including immunizations.
“Ensuring that people continue or start getting routine vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential for protecting people and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and
outbreaks, including flu. Routine vaccination prevents illnesses that lead to unnecessary medical visits and hospitalizations, which further strain the healthcare system,” according to the CDC.
The flu vaccination will help reduce the overall impact of respiratory illness on populations, which will lessen the burden on the U.S. healthcare system during this pandemic. It is recommended that everyone 6 months of age and older, with a few exceptions, receive the vaccine.
The CDC is working with healthcare providers and state health departments to develop contingency plans on how people can get the flu vaccine without increasing their risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
Influenza and COVID-19 are different.
“Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis,” according to the CDC.