With COVID-19, getting a seasonal flu shot is critical

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Posted September 25, 2020 | By Christy Jergens, Guest columnist

It’s officially fall, and with the arrival of cooler weather also comes the traditional flu season.

This year’s flu season will be complicated by COVID-19, however, which can have similar symptoms. The Marion County Health Department is encouraging residents to get their flu shots now, before flu season is in full swing.

“Getting the flu shot each year is important but reducing illness and hospitalization from flu is even more critical this year to help protect healthcare workers and prevent strain on the healthcare system as they continue to care for people with COVID-19 and other illnesses,” said Health Department Administrator Mark Lander. “Until there is a steady vaccine supply against COVID-19, the way to prevent these two viruses from circulating at the same time is to get your flu shot as soon as possible.”

The flu vaccine is safe, and it’s recommended for everyone six months of age and older, including pregnant women. It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to offer protection once vaccinated.

People at higher risk for flu-related complications include children less than 5, adults over the age of 65, people with compromised immune systems, pregnant women and people who have pre-existing medical conditions, such as asthma and obesity.

In addition to protecting yourself from getting the flu, getting vaccinated if you are healthy helps to protect our most vulnerable populations. Contact your doctor’s office or local pharmacy to check on flu shot availability.

Youths under age 19 and uninsured or under-insured residents can get a flu shot for free at DOH-Marion’s main office, 1801 S.E. 32nd Ave. in Ocala, by appointment Monday through Friday. Call (352) 629-0137, select option 1 and then enter extension 5037 for more information on a flu shot at the health department.

Meanwhile, free youth flu shot drive-through opportunities are scheduled for October.

The Health Department is holding two youth flu shot drive-through clinics in October. Anyone under age 19 can receive the flu shot for free at the events. The clinics also will be offered at the Health Department’s Ocala office, 1801 S.E. 32nd Ave.

They are scheduled for Oct. 7, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., and Oct. 13, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Please call (352) 629-0137 (select option 1, and then enter extension 5037) to schedule an appointment for the drive-through event. A parent or guardian will need to accompany anyone under age 18. For more information on the Department of Health in Marion County, visit Marion.FloridaHealth.gov or follow the department on Twitter at @FLHealthMarion).

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