Flu shots even more important during COVID-19 pandemic

With two respiratory illnesses going around, Sanford stocks extra flu vaccines

Scientist wearing pink-colored protective gloves, transfers influenza sample vials from their cold shipping box, into a black plastic vial tray, while inside a negatively-pressurized flow hood.

Sanford Health is prepared to continue its battle with the COVID-19 pandemic while also taking on flu season.

It’s a challenge — a unique one in history— but one the Sanford Health community is prepared to meet.

“Am I concerned about our ability to work through it? I would say no,” said Dr. Jeremy Cauwels, Sanford Health senior vice president of clinic quality.

“We’ve already made our plans for the flu season. We already know we’re getting extra doses of flu shots. We are expecting more people to be interested in that. We want to be able to provide flu vaccinations for everybody who is interested.”

Immunization team effort

To support those plans, Sanford Health’s immunization team works together to make sure the health system is meeting the latest health and safety guidelines. The team also is finding new ways to get flu shots to the communities it serves.

“We’re employing strategies that will allow us to vaccinate a larger number of people in a shorter period of time,” said Andrea Polkinghorn, Sanford Health’s immunization strategy leader. “We will do this by implementing interventions to protect our patients from COVID but ensure they are protected from influenza.”

Learn more: Flu shots at Sanford Health

Sanford has added locations providing flu shots this year. Now the vaccine is available:

Sanford will also have a system in place for immunizing hospitalized patients.

Anticipating increased demand, Sanford has increased its flu vaccine supply by about 25% over last year. Nationwide, vaccine manufacturers have projected they will supply 194 to 198 million doses of influenza vaccine for the 2020-2021 season, according to the CDC. That would be a 20-million-dose increase over the year before.

Importance of vaccinations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. The bottom line: Get the influenza vaccine to protect yourself and your community.

“The best way to protect yourself from getting the flu is to get the flu shot every season,” said Sarah Prenger, Sanford Health’s senior executive director of Primary Care and Behavioral Health. “It is extra important this year because we are in the middle of a pandemic. By getting that flu vaccine, you’re decreasing your risk of getting sick with the flu or being hospitalized.”

In that sense, the vaccine also plays a role in conserving health care resources for those people who need it for the coronavirus.

Ultimately, comprehensive vaccination plans will always be collaborative efforts involving health care providers and the community.

“The true heroes are Sanford Health’s front-line staff,” Prenger said. “It’s the nurses and physicians in our clinics and our hospitals. Everyone is working very hard to get ready for the flu season because it’s going to look different than any we’ve ever experienced.”

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Posted In Coronavirus, Flu, Immunizations

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