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Doctors: COVID-19 Pandemic Makes It Even More Important To Get A Flu Shot

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — While some people may be hesitant to visit a health clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors said it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot this year.

One Utah family makes it a priority every year, despite tears from their little ones.

Like other mothers, Brittany Henslee purposefully doesn’t tell her two boys when they’re getting flu shots. She said it’s better for everyone that way.

“I think they found out when we walked up and they said, ‘Are you getting flu shots?’” Brittany Henslee said. “He tensed up and grabbed onto us.”

She immediately comforted her 6-year-old son, Kaden Henslee.

“It’s ok, remember how brave you can be?” she said. “Hold Daddy’s hand.”

Henslee and his 3-year-old brother, Braxton Henslee, quickly forgot about their pain when they were rewarded with some time at the park afterward.

Although it’s not always a fun experience, Brittany Henslee wants her family to be protected.

“So they can grow up and live the best life possible by getting all these immunities to help them fight things that may come their way, especially with everything going on these days,” she said.

Tamara Sheffield, Intermountain Healthcare’s medical director of community health and prevention, said the COVID-19 pandemic makes it even more important to get a flu shot this year.

“So that we don’t have both viruses happening at the same time,” she said.

Sheffield said the more people who get flu vaccinations in Utah this year will reduce flu-related deaths and hospitalizations.

“We need to make sure that we are not using our health care resources to treat people who become very ill with influenza,” said Sheffield.

She said those who are vaccinated but still end up getting influenza tend to have a less severe case, reducing hospitalizations and other complications.

She said it’s especially important for people with chronic illnesses to get vaccinated since the natural body creates an inflammatory response when it’s trying to fight off influenza.

“So people with diabetes have worse diabetes, people who have heart disease … we have higher rates of heart attack in those individuals after they’ve had the influenza because of the inflammation that affects the other parts of their body,” Sheffield said.

In addition to protecting their young family, the Henslees want to also keep their high-risk family members safe.

“So that we can still see grandma and grandpa and play with cousins and … go to school,” Henslee said.

The Henslees are employing every mitigation strategy possible.

“We do the flu shot. We have the mask, make sure we use our hand sanitizer,” she said.

“The way we make it a mild season is by using all the tools we have to prevent respiratory infections,” Sheffield said. “One of the best tools we have is vaccines.”

Despite rumors, Sheffield made it clear: “There is no evidence anywhere that says if you’ve gotten a flu vaccine, you are more likely to get COVID.”

Although Kaden Henslee was nervous, he encouraged his friends to also get a flu shot.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to scare ’em, but yeah!” he said.

Sheffield said October is the best time to get a flu shot before the virus starts spreading in the fall and winter months. She said many clinics in the state are expanding their hours and offering drive-up services to make it easier for everyone to get vaccinated.

The Henslees got their vaccinations at ARUP Laboratories, which is a clinic only available to laboratory employees and their families. They do not offer flu vaccinations to the general public.

To find a flu shot clinic near you and for more information on how to stay healthy, visit InUtah.org/healthy.

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