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Flu shots coming

Public health agencies recommend staying up-to-date with vaccinations

FILE - This Jan. 23, 2020 file photo shows a patient receiving a flu vaccination in Mesquite, Texas. On Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the vaccine has been more than 50% effective in preventing flu illness severe enough to send a child to the doctor's office. Health experts consider that pretty good. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

MARSHALL — While the COVID-19 pandemic has been getting most of the attention this year, other respiratory illnesses like influenza haven’t gone away. The peak of flu season isn’t here yet, but some providers in the Marshall area are getting ready to offer fall flu shots. Getting a flu shot every year is recommended to help protect your health and others’ health, the Minnesota Department of Health says.

Influenza, or flu, is a disease that can cause symptoms like a high fever, coughing and body aches. It can be a serious illness, especially for young children, elderly people, or people with chronic health conditions, the Minnesota Department of Health says. In Minnesota, it tends to strike in the winter and early spring.

“In Minnesota, flu season typically runs from Oct. 1 through April, but usually doesn’t start to pick up until November or more often December,” said Doug Schultz, an information officer with the MDH.

As flu season approaches, area residents are likely to see flu shots available. Last week, Hy-Vee announced that it would be making flu vaccines available at more than 270 of its pharmacy locations, and offering drive-up options for flu shots starting Aug. 17. Marshall is one of the locations that will be offering drive-up flu vaccines during certain time frames each week, said store director Matt Parkhurst.

While Schultz said flu vaccines are expected to begin to be available in August, it doesn’t necessarily mean people need to get shots right away. The peak of flu season tends to fall between January and March, he said. The Centers for Disease Control say July and August may be too early to get vaccinated, especially for older people. The CDC recommends September and October as good times to get a flu vaccine, but flu shots given later in the season are still beneficial.

Hy-Vee said flu shots at its locations will be available without appointments or prescriptions. In Minnesota, vaccinations would be available to patients age six and older.

Drive-up flu vaccinations at Hy-Vee locations will be available three days a week between Aug. 17 and Oct. 31, Hy-Vee spokespeople said. Drive-up vaccinations will be offered on Mondays from 7-11 a.m., on Thursdays from 3-7 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hy-Vee said patients receiving flu vaccine will need to wear a face covering, and any patient with COVID-19 like symptoms or who has had exposure to a positive case of COVID-19 should wait before getting a flu shot.

The flu vaccine only helps protect you against the influenza virus. However, staying up to date with flu and other vaccinations is important during the COVID-19 pandemic, MDH spokespeople said. Getting immunized for vaccine-preventable diseases can help prevent you from getting additional illnesses during the fall and winter. In turn, that can help avoid more severe health outcomes, and put less of a strain on the health care system.

Last week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that being vaccinated against other diseases might help provide partial protection against COVID-19. The Star Tribune cited a new Mayo Clinic study that showed people who had been vaccinated for other diseases, like pneumonia and polio, had less COVID-19 risk.

“Why this is happening is unclear,” Schultz said. It could be because of a concept called “trained immunity,” where getting vaccinated encourages the body’s immune system to be more active against germs like viruses.

However, the Star Tribune report said the Mayo Clinic research had limits, and it’s not known if getting a flu shot could help protect against COVID-19.

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