Doctors urging people to get flu shots ahead of flu season

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INDIANAPOLIS – Now that fall has arrived, Indiana health officials and doctors are urging people to get their flu shots.

At its drive-thru clinic across from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indiana Department of Health is offering both the COVID-19 and flu vaccines.

All mobile clinics run by the state health department are also offering both vaccines this fall, according to a spokesperson, as are many other providers across Indiana. It’s one way officials are trying to raise awareness about COVID and the flu and get Hoosiers protected.

“In the face of the global COVID pandemic, the last thing we want to have to deal with is overlaying a typical flu season on top of the COVID burden that’s facing our hospitals and health systems today,” said Dr. Christopher Doehring, vice president of medical affairs for Franciscan Health, which is offering multiple flu shot clinics.

The CDC recommends people aged six months and older get the flu vaccine. But some worry not enough people will listen to that advice.

Dr. Michael Jones, medical director of the Muncie and Peru VA clinics, said the flu shot clinics at his facilities haven’t gotten as high of a turnout as he had hoped.

“We’ve had to kind of remind people that the flu is still important, the flu is still present,” he said.

Doctors say because of the mitigation strategies in place last year like mandatory masking, there were very few cases of flu compared to a typical season. But they worry that’s not necessarily going to be the case this year.

“It was really low – it was below like 50,” said Dr. Robin Ledyard, chief medical officer for Community Health Network, of the number of flu hospitalizations last season at her facilities.

During a typical flu season, the number of hospitalizations would be into the hundreds rather than dozens, Dr. Ledyard said. She warns the consequences of too many Hoosiers not taking the flu seriously could take a toll on the state’s health care system.

“I hope that they can look at the flu vaccine which they may have gotten before, they understand that long-term science and still get that to protect themselves,” she said.

Community Health Network is also offering drive-thru flu vaccine clinics.

Doctors say it’s safe to get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time.

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