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Health officials stress importance of receiving flu vaccine before October’s end

BUCKHANNON – An Upshur County health official is speaking out about the importance of flu vaccination after collecting roughly seven years of data that shows only a portion of Upshur County residents receive the vaccine each year.

For the last six or seven years, Dr. Joseph Reed, medical director for the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department, has contacted healthcare providers and physicians’ offices; he’s also gathered information from the health department on how many vaccines were received that year.

“The Upshur County average ranges from 25 to 30 percent of people who take the vaccine,” the local retired doctor said. “Last year, the numbers were up just a little bit, but basically all of those years it has stayed the same — mostly 25 percent.”

This year with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare officials and the Centers for Disease Control are strongly urging folks to get the flu vaccination as early as possible. The CDC goes as far as saying “getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more important than ever because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

“I would certainly encourage people to take the flu shot and to use reasonable precautions,” Dr. Reed said. “We’ve been very fortunate in Upshur County, and we haven’t had a lot of community spread with COVID-19. If we want our schools to stay open and our businesses to stay open and we don’t want the undertakers to be overwhelmed, then we need to wear a mask when we’re out in public and keep our distance.”

The CDC highly suggests everyone over the age of six months old get the vaccine prior to a peak in flu activity, which is typically in later winter. Health officials stress it is extremely important for young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, people with existing medical conditions, and people who are in contact with those at greatest risk to receive the vaccine this year.

And in fact, with flu season coinciding with COVID-19, the CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October.

“The hope is we get one ailment of illness, the flu, under some control before we get all of the influence of COVID from the schools starting up and other businesses,” said Dr. Reed about the urgency to get the flu vaccine early.

This year, an egg-free preparation vaccine will be available, so people who may have an egg allergy may be more inclined to get the flu vaccine.

St. Joseph’s Hospital will hold drive-through flu clinics on Oct. 6 and Oct. 19 and on Nov. 4 and Nov. 16. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on the designated days, the clinics will be held at the rear of the hospital property near the Pallotti Pavillion to avoid traffic congestion with the COVID testing site in front of the hospital.

The clinics will offer two vaccines this year. The quadrivalent vaccine will guard against four strains of flu rather than the usual three and is available to those over the age of 12. These four-in-one vaccines will protect against two common Type A strains called H1N1 and H3N2, and the two distinct strains of Type B. The high-dose FLUAD quadrivalent vaccine will be available for those over the age of 65. This vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen as the standard vaccine and may be of benefit for older adults.

In a press release issued by St. Joseph’s Hospital, it’s advised that people should begin getting vaccinated soon after the flu vaccine becomes available in order to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection, the press release says.

To read more about the CDC’s recommendations regarding the flu vaccine, click here.

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