As flu season approaches, doctors urge getting the shot

Posted at 7:38 PM, Sep 13, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Flu season is quickly approaching, and with it comes a stern warning from doctors and other health officials.

“Flu is out there,” said Kevin Hall with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. “It was out there last year, it was out there the year before, and it will be here this year.”

After a minimal amount of influenza cases last season, Hall says we could see a greater spike in flu spread this year.

“Things were closed last year,” he said. “Schools weren't in person. There weren't crowds at ballgames. Churches weren't in person. There weren't people going to places where this can be spread so easily.”

Dr. Beth Hawse with Commonwealth Pediatrics echoed his concerns. She says we’re socializing more this year and may have lost some immunity to influenza.

“I think the worry with the flu is no one's really been around each other, and last year we had a really easy year because we were masking and social distancing,” Hawse told LEX 18.

On top of the current COVID-19 surge overwhelming Kentucky hospitals, and other circulating viruses like RSV, Hawse says a spike in flu cases could create even more issues for healthcare facilities. It’s why she’s encouraging people to get the vaccine as soon as possible, specifically before the end of October. Even if someone gets still sick, their symptoms will likely be mild, helping alleviate the pressure on healthcare workers.

“The purpose of the flu vaccine is not to keep you 100% from getting the flu,” Hawse said. “It's to keep you from getting hospitalized with flu, or dying with flu.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 50% of the United States population typically gets the shot. This year, Hawse hopes even more people opt in, to keep the flu from overwhelming the front lines.

The flu shot is recommended for everyone ages six months and older, with some rare exceptions, according to the CDC. Dr. Hawse said some people should also prioritize the flu vaccine, including young children and older people, as well as people who will be around babies. People are also able to get the flu shot at the same time they receive their COVID-19 vaccine, in separate arms.

Some providers, including pharmacies, are already offering flu shot appointments. In addition, Hall said the health department will offer the shot for free starting in October.