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DHEC officials stress importance of flu vaccines amid COVID-19

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The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) joins state and national partners in emphasizing how critical it is for individuals to stay as healthy as possible during this global pandemic. One such action is getting your flu shot.

"This year, this may be the most important flu shot of your life,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, interim DHEC Public Health Director. “We’re experiencing the worst public health crisis in 100 years, and it’s never been more important for each and every one of us to stay as healthy as possible. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, and the essential workers and first responders who are tirelessly dedicated in their service to the public as we all endure this pandemic together.”

Contracting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time is possible and could likely cause more complications than if the flu were the sole infection. The quadrivalent flu vaccine that’s currently available this year protects against the four most common different flu viruses that are expected to circulate this flu season. Flu vaccines are safe, effective, and do not cause the flu.

“Vaccination is one of the most successful public health interventions in history for reducing disease spread and preventing complications and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist. “So many generations before us would have given anything to have a flu vaccine. With COVID-19’s prevalence across our state, we must use the vaccines that medical science has afforded us to help prevent illness like the flu.”

DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone six months of age and older get vaccinated. Preventing the flu is particularly important for people who are at increased risk of complications from the virus, including young children, adults aged 50 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions.

Receiving your flu shot reduces your chances of contracting the flu, and, if contracted, lessens hospitalizations and deaths due to influenza.

COVID-19 and the flu can have similar symptoms, and they are both serious and potentially deadly diseases. However, it’s important to understand that COVID-19 is causing significantly more hospitalizations and deaths in South Carolina and across the country. When comparing COVID-19 and the flu:

  • Over the past decade, an average of 36,000 deaths per year in the United States are attributed to flu. The current total of deaths due to COVID-19 is 209,000 nationally.
  • In South Carolina, over the past six years, there have been an average of 140 flu deaths each year. From March 1-October 7 this year, there have been 3,530 COVID-19 deaths in the state.
  • Compared to the top causes of death in South Carolina in 2018, COVID-19 would be the third-leading cause of death in South Carolina, ahead of accidents (3,368) and behind heart disease (10,460) and cancer (10,360).

“Another reason why it’s so important to get your flu shot this year is we don’t want to overwhelm our hospitals, ICUs, and ventilators with both flu and COVID-19 patients,” Traxler said.

Flu shots are available at multiple locations across the state, including certain DHEC public health offices, pharmacies, hospitals, doctors’ offices and other locations. To see if your local DHEC public health office offers the flu shot and to schedule an appointment, click here or call 855-472-3432 to schedule an appointment.

Learn more about the flu and see a flu vaccine announcements featuring Dr. Bell and Dr. Traxler at scdhec.gov/flu. For the latest COVID-19 information, visit scdhec.gov/COVID19.

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