With all the emphasis on the COVID-19 vaccine, we can’t forget to get flu shots.

Most winters, influenza accounts for at least 20 million symptomatic cases, hundreds of thousands of hospital admissions and tens of thousands of deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus typically hits the United States in the winter months, causing health care officials annually to push flu vaccines in the fall months.

It’s important to get your flu shot every year for all the same reasons it’s important to get your COVID vaccine: personal health, the safety of others and helping health care systems. But with the resurgence of COVID in 2021, it’s especially important.

While COVID is trending downward in Norman and Cleveland County by all accounts, it’s uncertain whether another variant will take hold in the United States.

The Norman Regional Health System, at the end of August, averaged more than 50 COVID-positive patients in the hospital and more than 10 in the ICU daily as the delta variant of the virus spread throughout the country.

If another variant takes hold, hospitals could be stretched to their limits once again, making it harder for nurses and doctors to care for other patients. The fewer people get the flu vaccine, the more people will likely end up in the hospital due to this illness, as well.

Medical officials told The Transcript this week that getting the flu during the 2021-2022 season could lead to much more serious complications than in years past. Someone with a COVID vaccine could still contract the flu and possibly spread it to someone without either vaccine. Multiple health care professionals have said it’s possible to contract the flu and COVID at the same time.

Right now, far more people are eligible for the flu vaccine than for COVID. The CDC recommends anyone age six months or older should get it “with rare exception,” according to Oklahoma State Department of Health Immunization Service director Fauzia Khan.

This means thousands more people can be protected against the flu than against COVID.

The Health Department says children are most at risk of getting the flu. The most vulnerable demographic can be protected against this virus and the possibility of getting it and COVID at once.

As of Wednesday, Cleveland County had already lost 517 people to COVID. While we wait for the Food and Drug Administration to approve the COVID vaccine for children, getting vaccinated against the flu is a tangible way for you and your loved ones, no matter their age, to prevent another disease that kills thousands every year from spreading — and during a global pandemic no less.

We at The Transcript ask that everyone able get vaccinated against the flu before winter.

Flu shots are available in Norman at Walgreens locations, CVS Pharmacy locations, Sooner Pharmacy and Norman Regional.

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