GarCo health officials advise that flu vaccine is doubly important during pandemic
To avoid catching both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, get that flu vaccine soon, a Garfield County Public Health official said.
“We really want you to have your flu vaccine on board before flu season hits, so you are at least protected for one of the viruses this winter,” said Danielle Dudley, Garfield County Public Health immunizations coordinator.
The Centers for Disease Control reported it was not changing its flu vaccine time frame recommendation, stating July and August are too early. But the CDC advises that September and October would be an optimal time to get inoculated.
Dudley said public health is always a proponent for vaccines, but this year could be more important than others.
“Having two upper respiratory viruses at the same time, both with a potential for pneumonia, could be a real problem,” she explained.
Dr. Nichole Feeney, of Grand River Health, said getting a flu vaccine could reduce visits to the hospital, lowering risk of exposure to COVID-19 and freeing health care staff to address the pandemic.
“There have been a lot of studies on flu vaccines,” Feeney said. “They reduce visits to the doctor’s office by around 30-40 percent, and in children, they reduce visits to the pediatric intensive care unit by up to 74 percent.”
For people ages 65 and older, Feeney said some studies indicated getting the vaccine annually could reduce their mortality rate.
Grand River is conducting a drive-through flu vaccine clinic from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 18 and 23 in Rifle at 501 Airport Road. Another drive-through clinic will be conducted in Battlement Mesa at Grand River Health Clinic West, 201 Sipprelle Drive, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 14 and 22.
Because of growing interest, Grand River has ordered increasing amounts of the vaccine in recent years, and so far, they have 3,000 vaccines coming in this fall, Feeney said.
“I encourage my patients to get them every year,” she added. “I think of it as an umbrella that grows with the patient.”
While COVID-19 is still rampant, neither Dudley, Feeney nor the CDC advised additional precautions when getting a vaccination.
“Wear a face mask, like you would anywhere, but other than that, you should be good,” Dudley said. “If you’re feeling sick, though, the vaccine could exacerbate it. People should wait until their symptoms subside before getting the flu vaccine.”
Garfield County Public Health is also slated to receive about 2,500-3,000 vaccinations this year. The agency orders vaccinations in February, and they are manufactured during the summer using flu strains common in the southern hemisphere, Dudley explained.
“When we were ordering, we had know idea there would be a global pandemic,” she added.
Call 945-6614, extension 2030, for more information about public health vaccines in Glenwood Springs. For public health inquiries in Rifle, call 625-5200, extension 8116.
With a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, some have speculated the vaccine manufacturers might stop flu vaccine production to mass produce a COVID-19 inoculation, but Feeney and Dudley were skeptical.
“I don’t think they’ll stop making one for another, but I’m not positive,” Dudley said. “If so, that would be another good reason to get your flu vaccine earlier rather than later.”
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