Minnesota Opinion: This year especially, get a flu shot

Summary: Each and every one of us can do something to head off a nightmare COVID-19/influenza dual outbreak. We have an obligation to each other. We can get our flu shot, this year especially.

A person receives a flu shot at a clinic in San Diego, Calif. (File / San Diego Union-Tribune)

In a year filled with doom-and-gloom scenarios and possibilities, here’s one we can do something about.

We can get a flu shot, this year especially. “When coupled with the effects of COVID-19, public health experts say it’s more important than ever,” Kaiser Health News reported in a story this week.

“Incorrectly regarded as just another bad cold, flu also kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. each year, with the very young, the elderly and those with underlying conditions the most vulnerable,” the report read. “If enough of the U.S. population gets vaccinated … it could help head off a nightmare scenario in the coming winter of hospitals stuffed with both COVID-19 patients and those suffering from severe effects of influenza.”

Of concern, only 45% of U.S. residents got a flu shot last season, reflecting a frightening lack of trust in expert medical advice that has only grown bolder in the recent resistance to face masks and other perfectly reasonable precautions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Not even the declaration of a global pandemic has been enough to move some past their political biases, medical mistrust, and eagerness to dismiss and criticize the media.

Whether you choose to buy into this media report or not, medical experts will remain concerned about the possibility of a coming double whammy of flu and COVID-19 — and the reality that many Americans may be reluctant to visit their doctor, a pharmacy, or go elsewhere outside the home for a flu shot. In addition, many workplaces where free flu shots were distributed in years past are closed this year or operating with skeleton crews, with many employees working more safely from home.


“We’re very concerned about that,” William Schaffner, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, said in a Philadelphia Inquirer story this week. “There’s a need to get (the flu shot), but there are barriers to actually getting it done.”

In Duluth, efforts have begun to break down those barriers. More such efforts are needed.

At Essentia, for example, “We’ll have a longer window to get flu shots this fall. The idea is to provide more opportunities for employees to get those shots, making social distancing easier,” Louie St. George III, a media relations specialist for the health provider, told the News Tribune Opinion page Tuesday. “Starting today, we are administering flu shots for patients who schedule appointments with their providers. We’re still working on the larger-scale public flu booths, which will be offered later this fall. As you can imagine, there are more details to work out with those this year.”

Some good news: aware of the potentially overwhelming ramifications of COVID-19 and a bad influenza outbreak, manufacturers are producing more flu shots this year — between 194 million and 198 million doses, or about 20 million more than last season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each and every one of us can do something to head off a nightmare COVID-19/influenza dual outbreak. We have an obligation to each other. We can get our flu shot, this year especially.

This editorial is the opinion of the Duluth News Tribune Editorial Board.

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