Health experts are asserting the importance of getting a flu vaccine now more than ever.
Some of these concerns stem from the possibility of a “twindemic” in which America would be suffering from an outbreak of both COVID-19 and the flu.
If that were to happen, experts say hospitals would be at an extreme risk for overcrowding and, even worse, the death rate would skyrocket.
Cindy Walker, a Nurse Practitioner for WSU’s Student Health Services, recommends that everyone six months of age or older receive a flu vaccine and believes the vaccine will play a key role in preventing illness.
“The CDC recommends getting a flu shot anytime between September and October,” Walker said. “But it’s important to remember that flu season can stretch clear into May.”
Unfortunately, the signs of the flu can often look similar to that of COVID-19.
“Some of the same symptoms we see for the flu, we can see for COVID.”
That’s where the vaccine comes in, experts say. They have found it not only lessons the chance of contracting the flu, it lowers the severity of its symptoms, making it easier to differentiate between the two viruses.
The flu shot could also play a large role in reducing hospital’s overcrowding issue.
“Getting the vaccine can decrease your risk of needing to be hospitalized,” Walker said.
Although getting a flu shot is no guarantee that someone will not contract it, public health officials believe the benefits outweigh the doubts.
“I would say [the flu vaccine] is worth it,” stated Walker. “Some people would say ‘I still got the flu and I took the vaccine.’ It would be nice if we had a vaccine that was 100% effective. But the vaccine does decrease the risk of hospitalization and causes milder symptoms.
“It’s especially important for people at a higher risk of sickness-people with diabetes, high blood-pressure or things like this.”
The Student Health Center is offering a limited supply of flu shots for students this fall.
“Student Health Services are open 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We recommend you get there no later than 4:30 or 4:45 because there is some paperwork you’ll have to fill out. The cost [of the flu shot] for students is $20. If you have insurance, it can be billed to your insurance. If not, then it will be charged to your student account.”
In addition to the Health Center only providing a limited supply of influenza vaccines, health officials expect a shortage for hospitals due to the high demand this year.
Luckily, many other options for receiving a shot are possible.
“Other places in town that are offering flu shots are Dillons, the health department, and health clinics.”
If students are still unable to get a vaccine, Walker says that there are several crucial preventative measures that should be taken.
“Some other things we need to do: wearing face coverings has definitely helped. If you’re sick, stay home. Keep practicing social distancing and good hand washing techniques. All the things we say for COVID also apply here.”
“The number one prevention, of course, is to get the flu vaccine. But you still have to do those prevention steps even with the vaccine.”