“If you’ve ever had the flu, it’s a terrible thing to have,” says UT Health East Texas Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Cummins.
Cummins is encouraging everyone to get the flu vaccine this year, especially considering the presence of COVID-19. A surge of flu and COVID cases would limit hospital’s ability to take care of anything else, Cummins said.
“That starts to limit our ability to take care of heart problems and pneumonias and other things that we would normally do on a regular basis,” he said.
Contracting both the flu and COVID at the same time is also possible, Cummins said. It’s not a combination you want to have.
“I think all physicians have a real fear of that, we’re calling it the fluvid,” Cummins said. “Initially when COVID first came out it was reported ‘Oh you can’t get both.’ Well that’s pretty well been proven not to be true. You can actually be infected with both, and so for many people that will raise the risk of significant hospital time and/or death pretty significantly.”
Although there are popular fears surrounding getting the flu vaccine, Cummins said that these concerns are misguided and have been debunked.
“Vaccines are very very safe,” he said. “They’re generally effective at preventing people from getting the flu, and the best way to keep a community from being devastated by the flu is for the community to get vaccinated. You don’t get the flu from getting the flu vaccine. Occasionally people will get a mild illness, but it’s not the flu.
“Again, if you’ve ever had the true flu, what you may get as an effect of the vaccine is nothing like the true flu. It’s very mild in comparison. So that’s sort of an overdone fear that people have about the flu vaccine. You unequivocally do not get the flu from it.”
The flu shot is being offered lots of places. Many physicians offices and most local pharmacies including grocery store pharmacies offer the vaccine, Cummins said.
Children who are uninsured, underinsured or qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program are eligible to receive voluntary immunizations against the flu from more than 3,000 Texas Vaccines for Children providers across the state, including through UT Health Carthage, the Department of State Health Services Clinic on South Adams Street in Carthage and the Tatum Medical Clinic on North Hill Street in Tatum.
“I strongly encourage everybody to get a flu shot,” he said. “I’ve had one every year for 30 years.”