Flu shot season arrives

Chad Frey
Flu shot season is coming a little early this year, with a record number of shots expected to be manufactured as the nation grapples with a pandemic.

Signs are going up at pharmacies in and around Newton offering flu shots. Those shots are being offered in the middle of a pandemic, and earlier on the calendar than usual.

“We have flu clinics starting next week, which is a little early for us. We do not usually start until the end of September,” said Lynnette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is possible to have the flu and other respiratory illnesses, as well as COVID-19, at the same time. The flu shot does not protect against the coronavirus.

“Getting a flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from flu but also to help conserve potentially scarce health care resources,” the CDC said on its website.

Both flu and COVID-19 infections have similar symptoms. Diagnostic testing can help determine if someone is sick with the flu or COVID-19.

Redington said the Harvey County Health Department will start flu shot clinics with private businesses next week, and will also be performing flu shot clinics in schools as well.

According to the CDC, there will be a record number of flu vaccination doses manufactured this year, and there will be changes in how and where people will get the vaccine because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CDC is working with health care providers and state and local health departments to develop contingency plans for how to vaccinate people against flu without increasing their risk of exposure to respiratory germs, such as the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“It will look a little different,” Redington said. “We ask for everybody’s patience. We will take a little more time to make things are more sanitized than we normally do and (patients) need to be spacing while (they) are waiting in line.”

According to the CDC, some settings that usually provide flu vaccine may not offer vaccination this upcoming season because of the challenges with maintaining social distancing.

The website vaccinefinder.org currently lists five locations for vaccinations — both Newton Dillons pharmacies, Walgreens pharmacy, Walmart pharmacy and the Harvey County Health Department.

According to the CDC, for the 2020-2021 season, manufacturers have projected they will provide as many as 194 million to 198 million doses of flu vaccine, which is more than the 175 million-dose record set during the 2019-2020 flu season. Currently, vaccine manufacturers are not reporting any significant delays in distributing flu vaccine this season. However, because a record number of flu vaccine doses are being manufactured this year, the time to produce and distribute them will be longer.