As flu season gets ready to collide with COVID-19, health care providers say it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
With the calendar flipping from August to September on Tuesday, that means the time is now.
Many pharmacies are already offering flu shots. Banner Health will kick off a series of drive-thru clinics in Larimer County on Wednesday, and UCHealth is offering flu shots to patients beginning Tuesday.
Flu shots are “critical as people can have co-infections with both flu and COVID, which could significantly increase the severity of both illnesses,” said Dr. Marsha Hamner, regional medical director for Banner Health hospitalists in Northern Colorado.
Keeping hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients is important, especially with a surge of COVID-19 cases expected this fall, said Katie O’Donnell, spokesperson for Larimer County Department of Health and Environment.
A flu shot won’t guarantee you won’t get the flu, but it typically lessens symptoms and shortens the length of illness.
The health department will likely offer flu vaccine clinics when it receives its vaccines from the state, O’Donnell said. A vaccine given in September is expected to last the entire flu season, the department said.
Seasonal flu usually comes to Larimer County in late October and peaks in February but can show up as late as May with symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue, similar to those seen with COVID-19.
COVID-19 in Colorado tracker:Larimer and state case, death and hospital data for August
Because symptoms are similar, it can be hard to know the difference between influenza and COVID-19. Testing will likely be needed to confirm a diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s more important than ever this year to reach out to your primary care physician and get tested if experiencing symptoms of either, said Dr. Brandon Stilson from UCHealth Family Medicine in Windsor. “Testing is going to be very important.”
UCHealth is considering testing symptomatic patients for influenza and COVID-19 at the same time to avoid unnecessarily exposing health workers to COVID-19.
The CDC said on its website it has purchased an additional 2 million doses of pediatric flu vaccine and 9.3 million doses of adult flu vaccine.
Health officials are optimistic this flu season will be mild based on what’s happening now in the Southern Hemisphere.
Measures taken to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19, like increased hand washing, social distancing and wearing face masks, help protect against the spread of flu, as well, Hamner said. “If we follow these practices, we may see a milder season there. This makes adherence to these all the more important.”
Because of COVID-19, the predictability of flu season is a little uncertain, Stilson added. “We know every fall and winter there’s a lot of flu. There’s a lot of unpredictability and it will depend on decisions that people make over the next six months.”
Signs and symptoms of the flu
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (very tired)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
Who should get a flu shot?
- Anyone 6 months or older
- People at risk for severe illness from influenza including adults age 65 or older, or people with underlying medical conditions.
Source: Larimer County Department of Health and Environment , UCHealth, Banner Health, CDC
Banner flu shot clinics in Larimer County
Unless otherwise noted, the clinics will be outside. Cost: $35. For more information, call 970-810-6633.
- Sept. 2: 7-9 a.m., 1805 E. 18th St., Suite 6, Loveland
- Sept. 16: 7:30-9 a.m., Johnstown Family Physicians, 222 Johnstown Center Drive, inside
- Sept. 17: 8-10 a.m., Banner Fort Collins (white tents), 4700 Lady Moon Drive
- Oct. 7: 7-9 a.m., 1805 E. 18th St., Suite 6, Loveland
- Oct. 8: 9-11 a.m., Farmer’s Bank Fort Collins (inside), 713 S. Lemay Ave., Fort Collins
- Oct. 22: 4:30-6:30 p.m., 1805 E 18th St., Suite 6, Loveland
- Oct. 27: 10 a.m. to noon, Banner Fort Collins (tents), 4700 Lady Moon Drive, Fort Collins
- Nov. 4: 7-9 a.m., 1805 E. 18th St., Suite 6, Loveland
- Nov. 10: 5 -7 p.m., 1805 E. 18th St., Suite 6, Loveland
- Nov. 19: 2-4 p.m., Banner Fort Collins (white tents), 4700 Lady Moon Drive, Fort Collins
Cash, credit card, check and Medicare Part B are accepted. Bring your Medicare Part B card. Vaccinations for Tdap ($65) and tetanus ($45) also are available.
Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.