AUSTIN, Texas - Health officials are urging people to get vaccinated for both COVID-19 and flu to help avoid further straining a healthcare system.
Austin Public Health says facilities are being pushed beyond capacity due to COVID-19 patients in addition to those with other illnesses and injuries.
Officials say getting vaccinated for both influenza and COVID-19 reduces the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and even death.
"We cannot afford simultaneous outbreaks of flu and COVID," said Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes in a news release. "Do not risk becoming severely ill and needing hospitalization. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, and stay healthy."
Both vaccines can be administered at the same time. Currently, there is no combined vaccine.
"You have two arms, get two shots - one for flu, and if you aren't fully vaccinated or need a third dose because you're immunocompromised, one for COVID," said Interim APH Director Adrienne Sturrup. "If you're waiting for COVID boosters to be approved, it's still a good time to get your flu vaccination and help protect our community from another outbreak."
Many employers and schools offer flu vaccinations and they're offered at many other locations as well including doctors' offices, clinics, retail stores, pharmacies, and health centers. To find a location near you to get your flu or COVID-19 vaccine, visit VaccineFinder.org.
Flu shots are also available at Shots for Tots/Big Shots clinics for children who are uninsured or Medicaid recipients and for uninsured adults. The flu vaccine costs $25 for adults, $10 for children, and is free for children with Medicaid. No one will be denied services if they are unable to pay. Please call (512) 972-5520 to make an appointment.
For more information on COVID-19 vaccinations, visit AustinTexas.gov/covid19-vaccines or call 3-1-1 or (512) 974-2000 to schedule an appointment.
WHO SHOULD GET THE FLU VACCINE?
With very few exceptions, everyone aged six months and older is recommended to get an annual flu vaccination before the end of October before cases increase, but can still get the vaccine almost year-round. High-risk individuals are recommended to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. High-risk categories include:
- Adults over the age of 65
- Anyone who is pregnant
- People with chronic medical conditions
- Healthcare workers and caregivers
HOW DO YOU PROTECT AGAINST THE FLU?
Similar to COVID-19, the flu is a respiratory virus that spreads through tiny aerosol droplets when people sneeze, cough, or talk. The same simple steps that offer protection from COVID-19 guard against contracting and spreading the flu:
- Wear a mask or cough and sneeze into your elbow or tissue
- Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth
- Avoid others who are sick
- Stay home if you are sick
- Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces and objects
WHAT DO FLU SYMPTOMS LOOK LIKE?
While flu activity is currently low, many children and young people are back in school and vulnerable to contracting the virus. Symptoms include:
- Fever or chills
- Cough, sore throat
- Runny or congested nose
- Body aches
- Severe fatigue
If you or a loved one has trouble breathing, has bluish skin color, is not waking up or interacting, has sudden dizziness, has confusion, is severely or persistently vomiting, or improves but then gets worse, seek immediate medical attention to get a diagnosis.
For more information on the flu and surveillance information, visit AustinTexas.gov/Flu.