By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer
Last year’s flu season was milder than usual thanks to social distancing and mask mandates in place against COVID-19. But this year, many social distancing and mask requirements have been lessened in light of increased COVID-19 vaccinations.
Health officials said they are concerned that more people out and about could cause the flu to spread more easily this year, and serious flu cases could couple with cases of the delta variant to potentially overwhelm local hospitals.
Kelly Craine, the public information officer for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, urged local residents to get vaccinated against both the flu and COVID-19.
“Flu is often dismissed as just a bad cold, but it is its own serious virus, and it can cause serious infection and disease,” Craine said. “The No. 1 prevention for infectious diseases is one, get a shot. If there’s a vaccination available, get that. That is going to make a significant difference and is going to protect you in the long run.”
Craine said residents can get their flu shot and COVID-19 vaccines just about anywhere. She encouraged residents to take advantage of walk-in clinics at local pharmacies and grocery stores.
“Pretty much all pharmacies offer the vaccine — that includes CVS, Walgreens, H-E-B, Walmart,” Craine said. “That’s just a walk-in situation. Everyone goes to the grocery store or to the pharmacy; while you’re there, just walk in and say, ‘I need a flu shot,’ and they’ll take care of [you] right there. You can also get it at the Health District. We’re open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for shots, and you can get both right there. We accept insurance — most of the pharmacies are going to accept insurance — so just come on and get flu shots and your COVID shot.”
Dr. Heather Clinton, a nurse practitioner at the Health Center, said both flu and COVID-19 vaccines are available to students at the North Village Community Center and the Health Center. She said students can make an appointment online or call the Health Center at 254-710-1010.
Clinton said it takes about two weeks for a person to develop antibodies after getting their flu shot, so people should get their vaccine sooner rather than later.
“The time is now to get the flu vaccine versus when flu season is up and roaring,” Clinton said. “You may have less time between your possible exposures and your own immunity building, so we prefer people to start getting the flu vaccine now if they’re willing to take it.”
Clinton said in addition to getting vaccinated, people should be mindful of their health and isolate themselves if they are experiencing flu or COVID-19 symptoms.
“If you have sick symptoms … isolate and exercise contagious-type precautions as far as washing your hands, covering your mouth or your cough or sneeze, and using masks if possible, social distancing as possible,” Clinton said. “If people have fevers, then they need to stay home until they are fever-free for at least 24 hours. Just be mindful of being sick and being possibly contagious and not presenting yourself around other people that could catch it from [you].”