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Topeka Doctor says flu vaccine just as imperative as COVID-19 vaccine, can be taken together

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Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 4:25 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - One Topeka doctor has said in 2021, the flu vaccine will be just as crucial as the COVID-19 vaccine, which is safe to be taken together.

For those concerned about getting both a COVID-19 and flu vaccine, Topeka ER & Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jared Schreiner says there is no need to worry.

“If you’ve received your COVID vaccination, it’s safe to also get a flu shot this season,” Dr. Schreiner said. “Although you could safely get both on the same day, but get them in separate arms.”

Schreiner explained that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first recommended a 2-week waiting period after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, but has since taken that back. The CDC recommends flu vaccines for everyone but only recommends COVID-19 vaccines for those 12 and older.

“Flu season usually hits in late September to early October, so get a shot now to be prepared,” Dr. Schreiner said. He added that immune systems take about two weeks after a vaccine to produce antibodies.

According to Schreiner, 2021′s caution comes from experience.

“Last year we saw a steep decline in the usual number of flu cases at ERs,” he said. “It was like the flu had disappeared because everyone was following the COVID precautions during flu season.”

The doctor said wearing masks, social distancing, distance schooling and remote work all meant Topekans were not in contact with others and spreading the flu virus during the 2020-2021 flu season. However, he said with schools reopened, employees returned to work and general easement of mask requirements, flu cases could return to levels seen before the 2020 lull.

“Getting a flu shot is an easy way to protect yourself,” Dr. Schreiner said. “Flu vaccines don’t make you immune to the flu, but they do reduce the severity of symptoms and are a preventative tool to reduce the risk of hospitalization and lower your risk of spreading it to others.”

According to Schreiner, those infected with the flu spread the virus when they cough, sneeze and even talk. He said the small particles expelled can land in the mouths or noses of those nearby and even be inhaled into the lungs. Less common, he said, is catching the flu by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it then touching your own mouth, nose or eyes.

Schreiner said although the flu is generally less contagious than COVID-19, it can be just as deadly.

“Most people recover from the flu on their own, but some people can develop complications that can become life-threatening,” he said. “These complications can be secondary infections, pneumonia, respiratory failure and even sepsis.”

Dr. Schreiner said he advises residents to watch for these signs and seek medical help if they notice them in themselves or others:

  • Significant trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Inability to wake up or stay awake
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nailbeds.

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