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Officials: Flu shot ‘still as important as it’s ever been’ during COVID-19 pandemic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters (Dreamstime/TNS)

While flu season may be off to a slow start, health officials say it’s still vital for residents to get vaccinated.

“It’s still as important as it’s ever been,” said Brian Holloman, pharmacist at Thomas Drug Store & Home Medical Supply on Nash Street. “I would encourage anybody who hasn’t gotten their flu shot yet — it’s time to get it done.”

Flu activity remained low in North Carolina for the week ending Nov. 28, which is the most up-to-date data. North Carolina has reported one flu-associated death so far this year, according to state figures. Last year, the state reported 186 total flu-associated deaths. Three of those were in Wilson County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months old and older receive a yearly flu vaccine. It takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to become fully effective, officials say. It’s important for people at higher risk for flu complications to decrease their risk of severe illness, according to the CDC.

“Many people at higher risk from flu also seem to be at higher risk from COVID-19,” a statement from the CDC notes.

A flu vaccination can help reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses, which would lessen the burden on the health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Any vaccine you can get to protect yourself, whether it be flu or pneumonia, it’s important to get,” Holloman said. “That’s really the only way to protect yourself.”

While anyone can come down with the flu, individuals with a greater risk of developing flu-related complications include children under 5, adults ages 65 and older, pregnant women, nursing home and other long-term care residents and those with medical conditions including asthma, heart disease and blood disorders. While it’s still possible to contract the flu after getting the vaccinate, health officials say it’s much less likely. Studies show that flu vaccinations can make a person’s influenza illness less severe.

“It is important not to forget your flu shot this year,” said Wilson County Health Director Teresa Ellen. “We certainly do not want our citizens to be at risk for flu illness when there is a vaccine available.”

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(c) 2020 The Wilson Daily Times

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