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Flu shots are critical this year

Flu season is now upon us, but this year the influenza and the trouble it brings will overlap with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Public health officials say getting a flu vaccine may be vital to helping mitigate the pandemic.

According to Piedmont Health District Director Dr. H. Robert Nash, there are two very important reasons to get the flu shot this year.

Nash said the flu by itself is a respiratory disease which causes thousands of preventable hospitalizations and deaths every year.

In addition, the initial symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 can be almost identical. This, Nash said, can cause confusion and even rapidly overwhelm the capacity of the health care system, preventing appropriate medical care for many of the community’s citizens, both those with respiratory diseases and other critical and emergent medical conditions.

“Getting a flu shot will lessen the burden on the health care system and maintain responsive health care for those in need throughout the winter months,” Nash said.

Nash said it is also important to know that patients cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.

“Side effects from the flu shot are very rare and usually very mild,” he added. “The flu vaccine is safe and effective, and even if one gets the flu after getting the flu shot, the chances of being hospitalized are drastically reduced. That is, the symptoms are usually far less severe.”

On the bright side, Nash said, the current mitigation measures society has put in place in response to COVID-19, such as social distancing and mask wearing, will also help to protect residents from the flu and, hopefully, make this a less severe flu season.

“So keep wearing your masks, wash your hands and watch your distance,” Nash warned. “Don’t be tempted to gather in large groups. We have seen too many outbreaks caused by unmasked, large social gatherings. We can all get through this together. Stay the course.”

In Farmville, there’s certainly no shortage of places to get a flu vaccination, which is typically free with most insurance plans.

Farmville Family Pharmacy, a new independent pharmacy serving the Farmville community, is currently offering flu vaccinations. The pharmacy is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Flu shots are only available to those age 18 or older, and no appointment is required.

Centra Southside Medical Center, Prince Edward County and the Virginia Department of Health will be offering free flu shots this Saturday, Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the form of a drive-thru flu clinic behind the Centra Southside Medical Center.

No insurance is required, but patients must be 18 years or older. The 400 flu shots will be administered on a first come, first serve basis. The event will take place rain or shine, and masks are required.

Flu shots are also available at the Farmville CVS for ages 3 and up. The pharmacy is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Farmville’s Walmart also offers flu shots for patients aged 8 and up. Those looking to obtain a flu vaccine are asked to come in between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Walmart is also holding flu clinics on Tuesday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Thursday afternoons from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.