columbia VA flu shot clinic

Photo provided by Columbia VA public affairs officer Dillon McConnell from VA drive-thru flu shot clinic.

South Carolina DHEC released a statement Friday regarding the importance of getting a flu shot this year.

"This year, this may be the most important flu shot of your life,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, interim DHEC Public Health Director. “We’re experiencing the worst public health crisis in 100 years, and it’s never been more important for each and every one of us to stay as healthy as possible. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, and the essential workers and first responders who are tirelessly dedicated in their service to the public as we all endure this pandemic together.”

Contracting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time is possible and could likely cause more complications than if the flu were the sole infection. The quadrivalent flu vaccine that is currently available this year protects against the four most common flu viruses that are expected to circulate this flu season.

“Vaccination is one of the most successful public health interventions in history for reducing disease spread and preventing complications and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist. “So many generations before us would have given anything to have a flu vaccine. With COVID-19’s prevalence across our state, we must use the vaccines that medical science has afforded us to help prevent illness like the flu.”

DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone six months of age and older get vaccinated. Preventing the flu is particularly important for people who are at increased risk of complications from the virus, including young children, adults aged 50 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions.

Receiving a flu shot reduces the chances of contracting the flu, and if contracted, lessens hospitalizations and deaths due to influenza.

COVID-19 and the flu can have similar symptoms, and are both serious and potentially deadly diseases. However, COVID-19 has caused significantly more hospitalizations and deaths in South Carolina and across the country.

According to DHEC, when comparing COVID-19 and the flu:

Over the past decade, an average of 36,000 deaths per year in the United States are attributed to flu. The current total of deaths due to COVID-19 is 209,000 nationally.

In South Carolina, over the past six years, there have been an average of 140 flu deaths each year. From Mar. 1 - Oct. 7, 2020, there have been 3,530 COVID-19 deaths in the state.

DHEC reported that compared to the top causes of death in South Carolina in 2018, COVID-19 would be the third-leading cause of death in South Carolina, ahead of accidents (3,368) and behind heart disease (10,460) and cancer (10,360).

“Another reason why it’s so important to get your flu shot this year is we don’t want to overwhelm our hospitals, ICUs, and ventilators with both flu and COVID-19 patients,” Traxler said.

Flu shots are available at multiple locations across the state, including select DHEC public health offices, pharmacies, hospitals, doctors’ offices and other locations.

To see the availability of flu shots at local DHEC public health offices, contact 855-472-3432 or visit DHEC's public health clinic website.

Additional information about the flu are also available at SC DHEC's website.

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