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Getting A Flu Shot Is More Important Than Ever Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, Chicago’s Top Doc Says

"The last thing we want to see this fall and winter is any amount of COVID, even the amount we have now, on top of our predictable pandemic, which is our flu season every year," Dr. Allison Arwady said.

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CHICAGO — The city is urging people to get flu shots this year as Chicago is already struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chicago Department of Public Health has an Emergency Preparedness Team that is already “fully focused” on planning how to help people get flu shots, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the department, said at a Tuesday press conference. The shots are beginning to become available as flu season approaches.

The shots will be particularly important this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Arwady said.

“… We need people to get a flu shot,” Arwady said. “The last thing we want to see this fall and winter is any amount of COVID, even the amount we have now, on top of our predictable pandemic, which is our flu season every year.”

For months, experts in Chicago and Illinois have said they’re worried about how hospitals and other health care facilities will juggle the COVID-19 pandemic with the influx of influenza cases seen in the fall and winter every year.

Hoping to prevent cases, the Chicago Department of Public Health is working to create “controlled settings” where people can get a flu shot while practicing social distancing, Arwady said. People will be able to register in advance.

Fortunately, experts are seeing the flu season hasn’t been as bad in the southern hemisphere — where it is winter — because people were already taking safety precautions, like wearing masks, due to the coroanvirus pandemic, Arwady said.

Still, Chicagoans should get a vaccine and should reach out to their doctors now to get caught up on preventative health care, Arwady said.

“The vaccine is so important, especially for younger people and older people,” Arwady said. “Different than COVID, flu hits young people very hard.”

Flu shots are vaccines that can protect people from three to four types of influenza that experts think will be most common during a particular flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC recommends most people age 6 months and older get the shots every flu season. Their effectiveness can vary, but, “Every season influenza vaccines prevent millions of influenza illnesses, tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths,” according to the agency.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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