By Ashley Moss
With plenty of activity in and around Dallas, area residents may be surprised to learn what Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson was doing on October 16th around lunchtime. “I got a flu shot today and I get a flu shot every year,” said Mayor Johnson. “But, it was absolutely critical to get one this year to send the message to folks that we need everyone to get a flu shot.”
It’s the beginning of flu season, a period which generally lasts from October until March and local health officials generally point to the vaccine as a way to prevent the spread of the common but sometimes serious ailment. The vaccine is recommended especially for anyone at high risk of serious complications including young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease, and people 65 years of age and older.
Texas tends to have high levels of flu activity according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local health officials say that the threat of COVID-19 makes the recommendation to get the shot even more critical. “If ever there was a year to get your flu shot, this is it,” said Joseph Chang, MD, Parkland’s Chief Medical Officer “Get your shot as soon as possible because it takes about two weeks to build your immunity to the flu after you get the vaccination.”
Although Dr. Chang confirmed that the flu vaccine will not protect a person against infection, he stressed that it is possible to contract the flu while infected with COVID-19 (or vice-versa). “The worst-case scenario for anyone would be contracting both flu and COVID-19 at the same time,” he explained, while noting the potential risks of COVID-19 when compared to the flu, including a higher death rate, a greater risk of infection, no proven vaccine or treatment for the disease, and the long term health issues that have been associated with the coronavirus, including known effects for the heart and lungs, among other organs.
The flu, on the other hand, has far fewer long-term effects. “With the COVID-19 pandemic and flu season overlapping, it’s critical that we protect the health of our communities,” said Mayor Johnson, as he reminded that the flu shot is available for free or at a low cost at various pharmacies, Dallas County clinics, and COVID-19 testing sites. While health officials continue to raise concerns over a possible “twindemic” with the flu and COVID-19 happening at the same time, Mayor Johnson indicated that to address both concerns, consistency is key.
“There’s no way around it,” he said, emphasizing that Texans should continue following recommended protocols for health and safety, particularly against the spread of the Coronavirus, including wearing a mask, social distancing and wearing proper personal protective equipment. “We have to refocus on the things that we know work and that are within our control, and what’s within our control is whether or not we wear these masks,” he added. “This is not a political issue; it’s just a public health decision to wear the mask to keep yourself and others safe. We’ve got to do that.”