Time to get flu shot; vaccines urged to protect hospital capacity

Marcie Perry rolls-up her sleeve for a flu shot by Germantown Pharmacy pharmacist, Katie Perry Monday Sept. 20, 2021. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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Marcie Perry rolls-up her sleeve for a flu shot by Germantown Pharmacy pharmacist, Katie Perry Monday Sept. 20, 2021. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

The typical flu season starts in the fall, with cases rising in the winter.

Flu shots are available now in the area and people are urged to get vaccinated before the end of October.

There was almost no flu last season – a highly unusual occurrence. It’s not clear what will happen this year, but with differences like less indoor masking and school back in session, cases could come back.

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Flu vaccines are urged to lower people’s personal risk, to protect the people around them, and to help preserve hospital capacity since COVID-19 is also present.

“Anytime from here through the end of October is the right time to get flu shots,” said Dr. Glen Solomon, chair of the Boonshoft School of Medicine Department Internal Medicine and Neurology.

Solomon said that the recent rise of RSV, a common respiratory virus, may be a sign that there will be an increase in respiratory viruses this winter.

“There is real concern that we may have a very bad flu year this year,” Solomon said.

Each flu season is different but generally starts in the fall and cases generally hit peak around late December to January.

Flu shots are available at many pharmacies, public health clinics, primary care practices, workplaces and pop-up clinics. Drug Mart, Walgreens, and CVS all reported having flu shots available in the area.

Most health insurance plans completely cover the cost of getting a flu vaccine, according to pharmacist Katie Perry, who owns Germantown Pharmacy, who said she has vaccines available now.

Kettering Health reported having flu vaccines available for established primary care patients. New and existing Premier Health patients can schedule an appointment through their MyChart account, by calling their provider’s office, or online at PremierHealth.com/Schedule.

Flu vaccinations are urged for those six months and older.

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Pharmacist Gregory Braylock, with Zik’s Family Pharmacy in Dayton, said children back in the classroom are going to be spreading not just COVID-19 but also flu and other illnesses. The flu vaccines can help protect kids while also helping prevent symptoms that might be confused with COVID-19.

“Children should be vaccinated with the flu vaccine,” Braylock said.

Zik’s now has the high dose flu vaccine, recommended for adults 65 and older and expects to receive flu vaccines for the general population this week or next week. Older adults coming in for their third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can get vaccinated for the flu at the same time, Braylock said.

People at higher risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant people, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, and people 65 years and older, according to the CDC.

If they do catch the flu, people at higher risk from flu and get flu symptoms could benefit from taking antiviral drugs early after symptoms start, and should call their health care provider early to ask about flu antivirals.

The CDC also advises that vaccination is important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for people at higher risk to keep from spreading flu to them. This is especially true for people who work in long-term care facilities, which are home to many of the people most vulnerable to flu.

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Solomon said vaccination is the most important prevention step to take. Other important steps include avoiding close contact with sick people, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequent hand washing. The CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone, unless leaving to get medical care or another necessity.

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea