SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - While the world waits for incoming COVID-19 vaccines, pharmacists say people should get their flu shots now as the coronavirus spreads rampantly.
The flu vaccine, pharmacists say, is critical to prevent severe flu cases and protect shrinking hospital capacities as COVID patients fill available beds.
It appears people are taking the message seriously: many more Americans are getting flu shots this fall.
South Coast CVS district leader and pharmacist Karim Henin says the company has already given more than nine million Americans a flu shot this fall, "basically the same number" the company administered all of last flu season.
CVS locations from Carpinteria to Lompoc are also seeing an inoculation increase. Henin says some have already given twice as many flu shots this fall as they did during the entirety of last flu season.
“It brings joy to our heart, I would say,” said Henin. “As pharmacists, seeing a lot more patients understand the importance and wanting to take care of loved ones and taking care of the communities that we’re in, it brings a lot more purpose for us as pharmacists, that we’re able to give something back to the community.”
Dec. 6-12 marks National Influenza Vaccination Week this year.
Henin says now is an important time for those who have not had their flu shot to make a plan to get one, in order to be proactive. So far, he says, the county has only seen isolated flu cases.
“As temperatures start to dip throughout the county, that’s the environment where the flu starts spreading," he said.
Henin adds that flu shots are also important because they protect vulnerable populations from the possibility of having the flu and COVID at the same time.
“I always get the flu shot, but I just thought it was really important this year because I certainly don’t want to end up have to go through both [the flu and COVID-19],” said Debbie VanMullen, who also received shots for pneumonia and shingles at the same appointment two weeks ago. “So far, we’ve been pretty healthy and so has our family. So we’re grateful.”