Werner: Flu shot imperative with rising COVID cases


JASPER — Flu season is just around the corner, and getting a flu shot is especially important this year with rising COVID-19 cases, said Shawn Werner, administrative director of the Dubois County Health Department.

The health department offered flu shots beginning with a high-dose drive-thru clinic from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. today for those 65 and older. After today, anyone can walk into the health department to receive a standard shot.

Last year’s flu season — which typically begins in October and peaks in winter months — was relatively contained compared to previous years, likely because people were masking and staying home. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still estimates that there were 38 million cases, 400,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths from the flu.

“It wasn’t as nonexistent as what people think it was,” Werner said. “But if we go away from the precautions that we took last year, if people aren’t wearing their masks and not practicing good hand hygiene, then yeah, we could have more flu cases this year.”

The recommended two-week waiting period after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine has been lifted, Werner said, so people are able to get both shots at the same time if they wish. The health department and local pharmacies will be offering both shots, including a COVID-19 vaccine booster. A combined flu/COVID-19 shot is not yet available but is currently in development by vaccine makers Moderna and Novavax.

Last year’s first high-dose flu shot clinic was especially busy, Werner said, so he anticipated this year’s clinic would be the same way.

“Last year we were backed up all the way past Hedinger Beverage on St. Charles Street to try and get people through,” he said. “So we’re hoping this year, now that we have our new drive-thru constructed, that hopefully it’ll be a little more efficient ... There will probably be high demand again because it’s so hard to differentiate, ‘Do I have the flu or do I have COVID?’”

Werner recommended that people who have symptoms of the flu get tested for COVID-19 to rule it out and stay home if possible.

“If you’re sick, it’s just common sense that you need to stay home and stay away from everybody,” he said, “but with COVID, it’s even more imperative now.”

For more information, contact the county health department at 812-481-7050.

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