“We can prevent this tragedy”: Local experts stress the importance of flu vaccines amidst pandemic

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FILE – In this Sept. 14, 2021 file photo, a syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at the Reading Area Community College in Reading, Pa. Businesses that have announced vaccine mandates say some workers who had been on the fence have since gotten inoculated against COVID-19. But many holdouts remain — a likely sign of what is to come once a federal mandate goes into effect. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — While COVID-19 remains at the forefront in the Rio Grande Valley, local health experts are warning that influenza vaccination should remain a priority. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that receiving a flu shot in September or October offers the greatest protection against the flu. According to a CDC study, flu vaccination was estimated to prevent 7.52 million influenza illnesses and over 6,000 flu-related deaths during the flu season of 2019-2020.  

Dr. Christopher Romero, an internal medicine specialist at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, said in a press release that the combination of COVID-19 with the flu could be severe. 

“Last flu season, we already saw patients who tested positive for both the flu and COVID-19,” Romero said. “This is a horrible combination, and places patients at even higher risk for bad outcomes than with either infection alone.” 

Romero said that flu vaccinations will help prevent the Valley’s healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“If COVID surges again this fall at the same time that we see an increase in patients admitted with influenza, the health care system in the region could be pushed to the breaking point.” 

Dr. Beverly Zavaleta, physician adviser at Valley Baptist Medical Center, said in the release that getting vaccinated against the flu is simple, and important for the area. 

“We can prevent this tragedy for our community by getting both our flu and our COVID vaccines.” 

According to the CDC, there are ways to slow the spread of both viruses. The methods include: 

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly 
  • Avoid touching your face or eyes except with a tissue 
  • Avoid contact with others who are sick 
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing 
  • Stay at home when you are sick 
  • Consider wearing a mask when indoors in public spaces 

For more information on the flu, visit the CDC website

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