Catoosa County Health Department

The Catoosa County Health Department is now offering flu vaccines on an appointment basis.

“We’re asking people to call the health department at 706-406-2000 to schedule an appointment for their convenience and to help everyone maintain safe physical distancing,” said Shelly Russell, public health nurse at the Catoosa County Health Department, “but typically we can schedule same-day appointments when people call.

“This flu season is going to be more challenging than ever due to the added risk of COVID-19 in our community,” Russell said. “Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.

“It is possible for a person to get both the COVID-19 virus and the influenza virus at the same time or back-to-back,” Russell said. “You can protect yourself and others from influenza by getting the flu vaccine early this year, wearing a mask, practicing safe physical distancing, washing hands frequently, and staying home if you are sick with any kind of symptoms.

“It’s more important than ever to get vaccinated,” Russell said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused shortages of hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators, even outside of flu season. During flu season, when both the flu and COVID-19 will be circulating, hospitals may again face shortages, limiting their ability to care for people who are seriously ill with the flu, COVID-19, or both.”

The health department has the quadrivalent vaccine, which provides broader protection against circulating flu viruses, and a limited amount of the high-dose influenza vaccine, which is more effective for persons 65 years of age and older.

Russell said everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. “The flu shot will last through the flu season,” Russell said. “It’s never too early to get a flu shot, as we cannot accurately predict when the influenza season will begin, but it can be too late.”

Flu season usually begins in October but can begin as early as September and last well into March. Peak flu season in Georgia usually occurs in late January and early February.

Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complication from influenza, including: children younger than five, but especially children younger than two years; adults 65 years of age and older; pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum; residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; and people who have medical conditions including asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, and so on.

It is especially important to get the flu vaccine if you, someone you live with, or someone you care for is at high risk of complications from flu.

It is also recommended that pregnant women get a flu vaccine during any trimester of their pregnancy. Not only does it protect them against the flu, it also protects their newborn infants, for up to the first few months of life at least, at a time when infants are too young to receive the vaccine themselves.

The flu vaccine will not prevent COVID-19. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID are similar, it may be hard to tell them apart based on symptoms alone.

You may need a test to confirm a diagnosis.

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