Vaccines, vaccines, vaccines. Everywhere you turn, someone is talking about vaccines. RiverView Health has given over 6,000 COVID-19 and influenza vaccines in the past year, with weekly COVID and influenza clinics continuing.
While COVID-19 vaccines have been in the headlines since before the first Pfizer vaccination went into the arm of Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old from the UK, on Dec. 8, 2020, the influenza (flu) vaccine has taken a back seat. However, as we get deeper into the flu season, the flu vaccination becomes even more critical. Therefore, we highlight the mighty flu shot as we approach National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 5-11.
First, it is not too late to get your flu shot at RiverView Health. Flu most commonly peaks in February and significant activity can continue into May. Being immunized against the flu is more important than ever this year to keep people healthy and not overwhelm our health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anyone six months and older should have a flu vaccine. Vaccination is crucial for protecting people at high risk of serious flu complications, including:
- Young children
- Pregnant women
- Adults 65 years and older
- Anyone with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease
As of Nov. 20, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported that Influenza A is the most reported strain this flu season. Flu viruses are constantly changing, and multiple flu viruses can circulate simultaneously during any given flu season. Because of this, flu vaccines are reviewed each year and updated as needed. Flu vaccines protect against the four flu viruses that research indicates will be the most common during flu season. Two of the components included in this year's vaccine were updated from last year to better match flu viruses expected to spread in the US this season.
While the latest weekly report indicates there have only been 12 reported hospitalization in the state, the number of flu virus detections has increased in recent weeks. More than 90% of the cases detected are among children and young adults aged 5-24 years. That same report shows 41 school outbreaks of the flu have occurred thus far in the season. As of Nov. 5, 162.5 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed in the US.
While the flu shot will not prevent you from getting COVID-19, it may prevent you from being hit by both illnesses at once. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.
"Both influenza and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses that can make people very sick," shared Angie Salentiny, RiverView Infection Prevention/Employee Health coordinator. "That's why it's important to take steps to prevent both diseases. The flu vaccine can help protect you from getting the flu and prevent you from passing it to people who could get very sick, such as older family and friends or people with underlying medical conditions.’’
Flu vaccines are the only vaccines that protect against flu. Flu and COVID-19 are different diseases caused by different viruses. One vaccine is not a substitute or a replacement for the other. Both vaccines are recommended, and it is important that people be up to date on their recommended flu and COVID-19 vaccines.
"Get vaccinated to protect yourself from the flu. Cover your cough, wash your hands, stay home when you are sick, clean frequently touched surfaces, wear a mask, and stay 6 feet from others to prevent the spread of flu and COVID-19,'' concluded Salentiny.
You can be vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19 at the same visit.
To schedule your flu shot, call 281.9595.