Erie County Health commissioner: This flu season, avoid the “one-two” punch of influenza and COVID-19 with a flu shot

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(WIVB) – All of us are facing a “one-two” punch this fall and winter when it comes to our health.

First, there’s the coronavirus pandemic, and now the flu season is on the horizon. It’s time to take precaution.

That’s the plea coming from Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Health commissioner. Dr. Burstein is sounding the alarm for everyone to get the flu shot.

“It’s really important that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine,” Dr. Burstein said. “It’s really important that everyone band together just like we are for COVID-19 to get immunized.”

People can get the influenza shot in the arm or the nasal spray in the nose. There’s even a stronger dose for seniors.

“There is a higher dose for seniors, and thinking behind that is to give them a higher dose so that they have a better response so that they’ll be able to keep up their antibodies levels through the flu season,” Dr. Burstein said.

We don’t know yet how effective this year’s vaccine is, but it will at least offer some protection and Dr. Burstein says it will save lives- that’s why the push is on this year.

“So if enough people are immune to a certain infection, then it’s very difficult for that virus to spread in our community because there won’t be enough people to get infected and that’s what we’re hoping for this year,” Dr. Burstein explained.

Some local supermarkets and drugstores are pitching in to get the word out and get the job done.

Wegman’s even held a drive-thru clinic recently, where people didn’t even have to get out of their car to get vaccinated.

“It’s not just getting a flu vaccine to protect you,” Dr. Burstein said. “It’s also getting a flu vaccine to protect the people around you,” Dr. Burstein added.

Unfortunately, it’s possible to be infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, Dr. Burstein warned.

“Being infected with COVID-19 doesn’t protect you against any other virus, and I can’t imagine how ill an individual could be especially with other health conditions that put them at risk for both of these infections,” Dr. Burstein said.

With a spike in COVID-19 infections in Western New York, Dr. Burstein says this might be a good year to take a pause from holiday travel and avoid large family gatherings at Thanksgiving.

“This can be a quiet holiday season, and we can also celebrate virtually via Zoom and FaceTime,” Dr. Burstein said. “To reach out to the people you love virtually is safest.”

Once a COVID-19 vaccine is developed and found to be safe and effective, Dr. Burstein says the county already has a template on how to distribute the vaccine to everybody.

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