The New Normal: Doctors say getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — As a result of the continued spread of COVID-19, doctors are recommending people get their annual flu vaccine.

According to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, the 2019-2020 flu season saw just under 4,600 cases of influenza.

As of Sept. 13, the county has seen just over 4,800 cases of COVID-19.

Dr. Scott Dooley with Jordan Valley Community Health Center is recommending people get a flu shot now more than ever before.

“This year, of course, we’re going to have the overlap of COVID,” Dooley said. “Really, we want everyone to get it but particularly the people who are the most vulnerable. There’s been shown decreased risk of hospitalizations and death, particularly in the most vulnerable groups. So, children, elderly, pregnant women and anyone who’s immunocompromised or has lung disease.”

He says healthcare providers don’t need to be overwhelmed with both COVID-19 and the flu.

“And of course, we want to decrease the total demand on the healthcare systems because otherwise, we could have overlapping epidemics of influenza and COVID at the same time,” Dooley said. “So, that’s been a concern. With all the precautions that we’re taking for COVID, hopefully, we have a lower flu season this year as well.”

As of Sept. 13, there have been 1,700 deaths associated with COVID-19 in missouri.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, there were just under 2,000 pneumonia and influenza-related deaths in the state for the 2019-2020 season as of mid-May.

Dooley says if people keep taking precautions against COVID-19, this upcoming flu season may see fewer cases as a result.

“So far in the southern hemisphere, influenza has been a lower rate than in previous years, probably because of the social distancing, masking and all those precautions that people are taking,” Dooley said.

(Reporter: How can people tell if they have the flu or COVID?) “Well, they really can’t and that’s what we’re going to need to test for because there’s going to be a lot of overlap in areas of respiratory viruses, whether it’s colds or influenza or COVID, if you have a fever and cough, you should see your provider,” Dooley said. “We certainly want anyone who has symptoms to be tested. Whether or not they’re more attuned to it, I guess, depends on the individual.”

Dooley recommends getting your flu shot as early as the end of September and early October.

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