Several drugstores are offering flu vaccinations now, with concerns about a possible overlap between flu and Covid-19 sparking considerable interest in preventing the seasonal disease.
Stop & Shop, CVS and Rite-Aid stores in Huntington are among those that received supplies this week and began offering them to customers.
And Dr. Michael Grosso, medical director at Huntington Hospital, emphasized the value of the shot.
“Influenza vaccine (the flu shot) has always been important for adults and children over 6 months of age. It is even more important this year. According to the CDC, between 400,000 and 750,000 people are hospitalized with influenza every year, and between 24,000 and 64,000 people die. Children die less often, but more than 20,000 may require hospital care for conditions ranging from pneumonia and dehydration to flare-ups of heart disease or asthma. Influenza encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, can cause permanent disability,” he said. “During the current pandemic, preventing flu is especially important. We know that simultaneous infection with 2 or more different viruses is a frequent occurrence and that, as one might guess, the resulting illness is more severe. Some people, we now know, may not get sick or very sick from coronavirus infection; having influenza at the same time makes serious illness much more likely.”
Some experts say that it is too soon to get vaccinated, because if done now, immunity could wear off by late in the flu season, February or March. But supplies can run short, too, as happened last year with the high-dose vaccine given to people over 65. The CDC recommends the vaccine in early October to cover the full season.
An East Northport pharmacist said in early July that she had already received numerous inquiries from people worried about two epidemics at the same time and asking when the shot would be available.
“There are so many myths about flu shots. No, you can’t get the flu from a flu shot. Yes, even in years when there is a mismatch between the vaccine strains and what flu is circulating it’s helpful to be immunized – illness will usually be milder, and complications less likely. And yes, kids need a flu shot, because they can get the flu, infect adults around them, and occasionally get very sick. This is most especially true for those under 5,” Grosso said.
“We like to talk about this issue with our patients in terms of ‘risks and benefits’ — though complications from immunization occur in rare cases, the likelihood of getting the flu, being hospitalized, or experiencing serious harm – among the young and old – is far greater. There are still some folks who avoid getting immunized because they feel that ‘nature knows best.’ I sometimes remind my patients that going back 100 years, we dealt with lots of infections naturally. In those days, people had more kids in part because you could expect that one or more wouldn’t survive their first year. That was the natural course of common infections. A global pandemic is, among other things, a reminder that nature can be very unkind.”