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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Vaccination information: COVID-19, flu for winter season

Photo by Abbey Santoro

The most recent Texas vaccination report shows one-third of Texans have taken the opportunity to get vaccinated against COVID-19 which has contributed to the lowest number of cases and hospitalizations across the state in over a year. 

Flu cases continue to rise in the United States resulting in community health challenges. 

As flu season approaches there are specific things to be conscious of when it comes to illness. Infection can be prevented by washing hands frequently, social distancing and staying hydrated. The COVID-19 vaccine and flu shots are available on campus and the surrounding Bryan-College Station area. 

Workforce Development Coordinator of the Brazos County Health District Mary Parrish said the best thing individuals can do to stay healthy is to get their flu shot and COVID-19 immunizations and boosters. 

“Staying up to date on those will be the best thing for you,” Parrish said. “Not only do they prevent disease, but if by chance you do get sick it greatly shortens the amount of time you’re sick and will give you much less severe complications.”

Student Health and Services family nurse practitioner Ellie Leal recommends getting the flu shot before the spike, as peak infection months begin. 

“Hopefully before December, January [is] when we start to see spikes,” Leal said. “Ramping up to December through January is when we start to see [a] kind of peak flu season … We tend to be a few months behind Europe and the new COVID[-19] variant B4 [and] B5 is starting to peak in Europe so we can expect it to peak over here in the next few months”

Parrish said there has been a huge rise in flu cases this past month. 

“We had 800 cases of the flu for the month of October compared to last year,” Parrish said. “We had 489 cases. That is almost double the amount we had [last year].” 

According to Baylor Scott & White’s website, the flu shot cannot cause the flu. 

“Some people may experience a little soreness or swelling when they receive the shot, but it goes away in a day or two,” according to Baylor Scott & White. “Serious problems from the flu shot are rare. Sometimes a person who gets a flu vaccine can get the flu, but it will often be milder than without the flu vaccine.”

Parrish said it can often be difficult to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu symptoms, and recommends seeing a healthcare provider to get tested for both. 

“One of the biggest differences between the two is that most COVID[-19] patients will have much more noticeable respiratory issues,” Parrish said. “Most people would describe [flu] as a tightness.” 

Parrish said there was a sharp decrease in the number of flu cases during the pandemic era. 

“It wasn’t because people weren’t getting tested, it was because people were being very diligent on washing their hands, wearing masks, social distancing and all these things,” Parrish said. “These are still good practices to upkeep.”

Leal said there are antiviral medications that can benefit those who have a weak immune system or additional medical risks. 

“There are antiviral medications like Paxlovid for COVID[-19] and Tamiflu for influenza that can potentially shorten the duration and lessen the severity of the symptoms,” Leal said. “We typically only prescribe these to people who are at risk categories which are people with chronic illnesses.”

Parrish said the Brazos County Health District offers free COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots. 

“You don’t have to have insurance or an appointment. All you have to do is show up to the front desk and ask for [a COVID-19 or flu shot],” Parrish said. “We would be more than happy to set you up.”

Leal said the COVID-19 boosters and the flu vaccine are free to all students at the clinic and pharmacy provided by Student Health Services. 

“Anyone can get online or call and schedule an appointment to schedule a COVID[-19] booster or flu vaccine or both, they are safe to get together,” Leal said. 

According to Baylor Scott & White, the COVID-19 vaccination is safe and effective even after getting sick with COVID-19. 

“Yes. People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated,” according to Baylor Scott & White.

Baylor Scott & White’s website demonstrates who is eligible to receive the vaccination. 

“The COVID-19 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now eligible for those six months of age and older,” according to Baylor Scott and White. “The Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine is authorized in those ages 18 and older.”

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