COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – State health officials are urging South Carolinians to get a flu shot this year amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year, this may be the most important flu shot of your life,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, interim public health director for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, in a statement. “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.”
DHEC officials said 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’s currently available this year protects against the four most common different flu viruses that are expected to circulate this flu season, a press release stated.
According to health officials, it is recommended that everyone six months of age and older get vaccinated. Preventing the flu is especially important for those at increased risk of complications, including young children, adults aged 50 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions, the release stated.
DHEC officials stressed that COVID-19 and the flu can have similar symptoms.
'However, it’s important to understand that COVID-19 is causing significantly more hospitalizations and deaths in South Carolina and across the country," the release stated.
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 March 1 through Oct. 7 of this year, there have been 3,530 COVID-19 deaths in the state.
- 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 certain DHEC public health offices, pharmacies, hospitals, doctors' offices and other locations.
To see if local DHEC public health office offers the flu shot and to schedule an appointment, click here or call (855) 472-3432 to schedule an appointment.