Health departments located in South-Central Oklahoma,(Carter, Garvin, Love, Jefferson, Johnston, Marshall, Murray, Pontotoc, and Stephens Counties) in coordination with the Chickasaw Nation, are developing plans to deliver flu vaccinations to all surrounding communities as early as mid-September.
Flu season will begin soon and everyone is highly encouraged to get vaccinated. Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than previous years to take early preventive measures to avoid the influenza virus.
“We are grateful to the Chickasaw Nation for continuing to provide influenza vaccines to the local county health departments in a joint effort to protect the health of all citizens within the counties of the Chickasaw Nation,” said Mendy Spohn, Regional Administrative Director for nine local health departments in South-Central Oklahoma. This is the fifth year the two organizations have partnered to prevent the spread of influenza in their region.
Since influenza and COVID-19 are both respiratory viruses that could turn severe or even lead to death, communities need to prepare to get a flu vaccination as early as possible. Ensuring that people get these vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential for protecting people and communities from a preventable illness, reducing the burden on the healthcare system.
According to CDC data from the past five years, more than 500,000 people are hospitalized from the flu each year in the US. This figure includes an average of 21,000 children younger than five years of age. This year, health departments are concerned about the impact on individuals who contract both influenza and COVID-19 at the same time. Such co-morbidities may complicate providers’ abilities to detect, diagnose and treat co-infections. In addition, the potential of a severe flu season during the coronavirus pandemic may further strain resources that are already heavily burdened from ongoing COVID-19 response.
Flu vaccines are proven to be effective in reducing the risk of contracting influenza or at minimum lessening the time an individual is sick with the virus. While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity. That means more people are susceptible to infection, and some will suffer severe illness.
According to Spohn, “This year it is vital that people receive their vaccination before flu viruses begin spreading in their community, since it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop and provide protection against flu.”
Anyone over the age of six months should receive the flu vaccine. Senior citizens, young children, pregnant women and individuals with chronic health conditions are more susceptible to serious health complications if they contract the virus.
County health departments are making plans for flu vaccinations at schools and public drive-thru events. Dates of vaccination availability will be announced in the coming weeks.