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Why it's more important than ever to get a flu shot this season

"We don't want to burden the healthcare system that's already really stretched to its limit."

MINNEAPOLIS — Every year we hear how important it is to get a flu shot. But this season, with COVID-19 in play, it's more important than ever.

There are a couple reasons for that. First, our healthcare system doesn't need any more stress right now. An ICU filled with COVID-19 patients and flu patients wouldn't be good. 

"We don't want to burden the healthcare system that's already really stretched to its limit," said Nan Lomen, clinical supervisor of Worksite Wellness at Hennepin Healthcare.

Second, no one knows what would happen if a person simultaneously contracted COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. 

"The symptoms are really similar," said Lomen.  "We have no data to know if you're going to get super sick, or less sick."

Lomen helps organize flu shot clinics throughout Minnesota. She says this year, because of the pandemic, those clinics will look a bit different.

"We are looking at different ways of doing it. We are going to be hosting some public drive-thru clinics," she said. "Many of our big companies are hosting outdoor events. A lot of schools are going to host outdoor events."

Lomen recommends reaching out to your employer to see if they're doing on-site flu shots, even if most employees are working remotely. She says most medical clinics still are offering flu shots this year, and if not, they should be able to direct you to who is. 

As far as when to get that flu shot, official recommendations for this season aren't out yet, but the CDC says it doesn't expect any big changes in timeline. The CDC says August is too early, but you can get your shot in September. 

"They do believe the flu shot will last you throughout the entire flu season, even if you get it on September 1," Lomen said. "They're saying get it when you can get it, because it's just really important to get it."

Health Fair 11 is planning three days of Flu Fighter Clinics in late September. The drive-thru clinics are expected to take place at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. We will share more details about those clinics, once they're finalized. Health Fair 11 is a nonprofit organization that operates with support from KARE 11 and UCare.

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