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VA encourages veterans to get flu vaccinations

Thousands of Americans are hospitalized with influenza annually, and the illness can be serious, particularly among young children, older adults and people with certain chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes. As such, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone six months or older gets an annual flu immunization.

Enrolled veterans can receive their seasonal flu vaccination at the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center or any VA clinic throughout Southern Nevada beginning Sept. 14. In addition, all Las Vegas VA clinics will offer drive-up flu shot clinics beginning on Sept. 21. The North Las Vegas VA Medical Center will offer drive-up flu shots beginning Oct. 13.

Additionally, eligible veterans can also receive a standard or high-dose flu shot vaccination at more than 60,000 Community Care Network retail pharmacies and urgent care locations. This replaces the Walgreens Retail Immunization Care Coordination Program, which ended in March.

No appointment or VA referral is required. Veterans need to present a valid government-issued identification. Veterans can use the VA Locator to find a VA facility, in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location near them by going to https://www.va.gov/find-locations

By getting immunized from influenza, individuals are less likely to transmit the virus to others, which helps health care system − including VASNHS − from being overwhelmed with flu patients during events such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s like being kicked when you’re already down,” said Dr. Myron Kung, a VASNHS critical care pulmonologist. We typically see an increase in our hospital census between 20-40% during the peak flu season months of October to March as compared with the late spring and summer months. When combined with COVID-19, the flu could compound community illness and the strain on the local health care system.”

Flu and COVID-19 each can lead to serious health complications resulting in hospitalization or death. Both diseases, however, can be prevented by wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, washing your hands frequently and coughing into your elbow.

One of the most concerning consequences of flu season occurring in the middle of a pandemic is the potential for a patient to become infected with COVID-19 and the influenza simultaneously.

“It’s called a super-infection,” Kung said. “One can get COVID and a bacterial pneumonia as well as flu and COVID.”

For more information on local clinic hours or to find in-network community locations, visit https://www.lasvegas.va.gov/flushots.asp

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