While much of the focus among health care experts is currently on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, it doesn’t mean influenza, a different respiratory illness, should be forgotten.
Cherokee Nation Health Services has been doing its part to ensure citizens and their families get their flu vaccinations this year. So far, more than 25,000 vaccinations have been administered across the CN health system.
A number of vaccination clinics are scheduled through December at community buildings, local businesses, churches, town hall and health centers in the Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction, said Dr. Roger Montgomery, executive medical director of CNHS.
“Cherokee Nation Health Services is offering flu vaccinations for Cherokee Nation citizens and their families, and members of other federally recognized tribes and their families,” he said. “Vaccinations are also offered to non-Native family members living in the households of Cherokee Nation citizens and the household members of other federally recognized tribal citizens.”
While the two illnesses are similar in that they impact breathing and have similar symptoms, influenza has a vaccine. It may change from year to year, depending on the anticipated strains.
Although states are getting ready to begin distributing a vaccine for the coronavirus, it is not yet available. So it is important for people to get their flu shots this year, as influenza and COVID-19 serve as sort of a double threat.
“The viruses that cause influenza and COVID-19 will both be spreading through our communities this fall and winter, and you can become infected with both,” said Montgomery. “Getting a flu shot won’t prevent COVID-19 infection, but it will reduce your chance of getting influenza. Please take advantage of the proven protection that comes from getting a flu shot.”
The flu season typically runs from September to March, so area residents still have plenty of time and incentive to get their vaccinations. Not only can the vaccine prevent them from becoming ill with the flu, but it can save resources health care workers need to combat COVID-19. So instead of people having to be hospitalized due to the flu, the bed can be left open for those who test positive for the coronavirus and become extremely ill.
Just last week, the ICU unit at W.W. Hastings Hospital reached its capacity.
For the complete 2020 flu vaccination schedule visit https://health.cherokee.org/community-flu-clinics/. As needs arise, the list is subject to change.