As El Paso is facing the worst COVID-19 outbreak among major U.S. cities and with the flu season looming, a local infectious disease expert is urging the community to get the flu vaccine by this weekend.
Dr. Armando Meza, chief of infectious diseases at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, said the pandemic will not likely change for the better until the end of the year — at the earliest — and getting the flu vaccine will help ease the burden on the city’s overwhelmed hospital system.
El Paso has more than 14,000 active COVID-19 cases, with more than 900 hospitalizations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions recommends getting vaccinated for the flu by Oct. 31, which is Saturday. The flu season typically begins in October and can last through May, although the peak is typically between December and February, according to the CDC. The CDC recommends anyone older than 6 months of age get vaccinated.
El Paso Matters asked Meza to discuss why it’s important to get the flu vaccine this year.
Here are key takeaways from Meza:
- With the current situation, with the number of cases of COVID, you don’t want to make the system even worse by increasing the number of people who may not have become infected with COVID, but they are now becoming infected with influenza.
- When you have a patient that is infected with more than one organism regardless of whether this is COVID and influenza, or influenza and something else, the usual response to the treatment and the response to the clinical course is not as good as if you have only one medical condition.
- Vaccinations are not immediately protective. That means once you get the shot today it’s going to take maybe two weeks plus to develop the amount of immunity — the amount of protection — for you to not become infected or exposed, and also sometimes the vaccine is not 100 percent protective. Still, it is very clearly justified that you do get it now as opposed to getting it later in the season.
- If you have any concerns about the vaccine, especially people who think they are going to get the flu or people who have side effects or allergies, to discuss it with your medical care provider and clear those questions with the intent that you want to get your vaccine. You want to go with the mindset that it is the best time (to get vaccinated).
- If you are a patient that is a 65 years or older individual, you may want to get the high dosage vaccine that will give you additional protection. Those are the people that usually are the ones that do not respond as well as the younger (individuals) to influenza.
The City of El Paso Department of Public Health along with partnering agencies are offering free flu vaccines to the community. Visit the city’s BePowerFlu site for more information about free flu vaccines.
Cover photo: Corrie Boudreaux, a UTEP communications professor and freelance photographer, received a flu shot on Wendesday. (Photo by Aidan Ibarra)