As the weather gets colder, the chances of getting the flu increase just as it does each year.
But this flu season may look a little different thanks to COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu vaccines are updated each year to match the various strains of flu viruses expected to be circulating that season.
There are various vaccines available, according to the CDC, and some are recommended for specific age-groups and health conditions.
Routine annual influenza vaccinations are recommended for all people ages 6 months and older who do not have contraindications.
“Everyone over the age of 6 months and up should get the flu vaccine because tens of thousands of people die from flu illness every year,” Karen Gangitano, registered nurse and coordinator of the immunization program at the Peninsula Health District, said. “The elderly are very susceptible and young children.”
People who are at risk of serious cases of the flu are young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and immunocompromised people.
Gangitano added the Peninsula Health District is hoping more people will get vaccinated this year because of the pandemic.
Aside from boosting your immune system against influenza, Gangitanosaid another reason to get vaccinated is to ease the pressure on the health care system.
“Because of the coronavirus, the healthcare resources are already over taxed. So you can imagine the hospitals are busy, the emergency department, too,” she said. “And because the symptoms are so similar between the flu and the coronavirus, people won’t know what they have, so they’d have to get tested to see if they have corona or the flu.”
Flu season starts as early as October and usually ends in May for our region, Gangitano said. The best time to get your flu shot is by the end of October.
Even though you can still catch the flu after you’ve received a vaccine, Gangitano said it is still highly recommended to get vaccinated to lower your chances of infection.
You cannot get the flu from the vaccine itself, she pointed out.
Gangitano advised if you think you’ve contracted both the flu and COVID-19, then the best course of action is to contact your health care provider. Drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest, and isolate yourself to prevent further spread.
You can get a free flu shot at either Walgreens or CVS. Flu shots at RiteAid start at $39.99, without insurance. Gangitano said if you have health insurance, you can also go to your primary health doctor to receive a vaccine.
The Peninsula Health District also offers flu immunizations from 8-10:30 a.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and 1-3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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