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'Now's the time to do it': With flu season underway amid pandemic, local health officials encourage flu vaccinations

As the nation continues to battle the current surge of COVID-19, another viral respiratory illness is on the cusp this November: flu season.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seasonal influenza (flu) virus activity usually peaks between December and February and can last as late as May.

The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older, and with COVID-19 filling up hospital beds, local health officials are urging residents to get the flu vaccine sooner rather than later.

According to the CDC, a vaccine stimulates your immune system to produce antibodies, exactly as if you were exposed to the disease.

“A vaccine is a manufactured antigen that will allow your body to react to the disease and create antibodies,” said Dr. Bob Manam, infectious disease specialist with Northwestern Medicine. “Your body will recognize that antigen, build antibodies and become resistant to the disease. When you encounter the disease again, your immune system will have the antibodies needed to fight it. You will have become immune and will not become sick.”

Where to receive a flu vaccine?

The DeKalb County Health Department provides flu vaccinations for adults and children ages 6 months to 18 years old. A parent or guardian must accompany minors.

Appointments are required for flu vaccinations at the DCHD, which offers vaccinations between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Appointments can be made by calling 815-758-6673. Medicare part B, Medicaid and most PPO insurance plans are accepted. Without insurance, flu vaccines cost $38.

“The Health Department is following all safety protocols to ensure safe appointment visits,” Public Health Administrator Lisa Gonzalez said. “We have moved to primarily an appointment-only model so that we can stagger appointments in order to promote social distancing and adhere to recommendations related to cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces between visits.”

In addition to the DCHD, locations to receive a flu vaccine include Lehan Drugs, Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Jewel Osco, Target, Schnucks and Hy-Vee. For a list of pharmacies that provide flu shots, visit www.vaccinefinder.org/find-vaccine.

Tim Lehan, pharmacist with Lehan Drugs in DeKalb, said that he has already seen a steady demand for flu vaccines. He said that there was a higher demand and “somewhat of a shortage” of high dose flu vaccines for seniors ages 65 and older this fall.

“Many people are getting the flu vaccine for the first time because they don’t want flu and the coronavirus at the same time,” Lehan said. “This year’s flu season is predicted to be milder, possibly because people are practicing social distancing and wearing masks.”

Lehan said that flu season is now, from September through May.

“There are many benefits of getting a flu vaccine and minimum side effects, maybe a sore arm,” Lehan said. “I’d definitely recommend getting a flu shot, and now’s the time to do it.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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