VASNHS prepares for flu season, encourages vets to get vaccinated

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As the world battles the coronavirus, medical professionals are asking individuals to take steps to prepare for the next potentially life-threatening event on the horizon – the seasonal flu.

Thousands of Americans are hospitalized due to influenza annually, and the illness can be a serious, particularly among young children, older adults, and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes. As such, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone six months or older gets an annual flu immunization.

Enrolled veterans can receive their seasonal flu vaccination at the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center or any VA clinic throughout Southern Nevada beginning Sept. 14, 2020. In addition, all Las Vegas VA clinics (Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest) will offer drive-up flu shot clinics beginning Sept. 21. The North Las Vegas VA Medical Center will offer drive-up flu shots beginning Oct. 13.

Additionally, eligible veterans can also receive a standard (quadrivalent) or high-dose flu shots vaccination at more than 60,000 Community Care Network retail pharmacies and urgent care locations. This replaces the Walgreens Retail Immunization Care Coordination Program, which ended in March 2020.

No appointment or VA referral is required. Veterans need to present a valid government-issued identification (e.g. Veterans Health ID Card, Department of Defense ID card, state-issued driver’s license or ID card, etc.). 

Veterans can also use the VA Locator to find a VA facility, in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location near them by using this link: https://www.va.gov/find-locations

By getting immunized from influenza, individuals are less likely to transmit the virus to others, which helps health care system ? including VASNHS ? from being overwhelmed with flu patients during events such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s like being kicked when you’re already down,” said Dr. Myron Kung, a VASNHS critical care pulmonologist. We typically see an increase in our hospital census between 20-40 percent during the peak flu season months of October to March as compared with the late spring and summer months.
When combined with COVID-19, the flu could compound community illness and the strain on the local healthcare system.”

Flu and COVID-19 can each lead to serious health complications resulting in hospitalization or death. However, both diseases can be prevented by wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, washing your hands frequently, and coughing into your elbow.

One of the most concerning consequences of flu season occurring in the middle of a pandemic is the potential for a patient to become infected with COVID-19 and the influenza simultaneously. “It’s called a super-infection,” said Kung. “One can get COVID and a bacterial pneumonia as well as flu and COVID.”

For more information on local clinic hours or to find in-network community locations, please visit our website at https://www.lasvegas.va.gov/flushots.asp.

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