Fall 2020: Not your usual flu season

Wed, 09/16/2020 - 4:15am

Should you get the seasonal flu shot this year?

Absolutely, everyone six months and over, with rare exception, should, according to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s website states a record 194-198 million doses are expected to be manufactured for this year’s seasonal flu vaccine for all four types of flu viruses: influenza A, B, C and D. The shot protects against all four types. For the elderly, there are two variations – a high dose vaccine, and a stronger (more antigens) formula to build up the immune response. There’s another formula for people allergic to eggs.

The CDC said vaccination is particularly important for the high risk group members: the elderly; people with respiratory problems, from asthma to COPD and emphysema; heart disease and kidney disease; and pregnant women.

The coronavirus is on the fall and winter scene and it’s going to add complications, beginning with medical facilities. CDC statistics from last year’s flu season, Oct. 1 -April 4: listed 39-56 million flu cases; of the 18-26 million visits to doctor’s offices, 410,000 to 740,000 people needed to be hospitalized, and between 24,000 and 62,000 people died.

It is possible to contract the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously or one right after the other, the CDC said.

Seasonal flu vaccines can be administered at your doctor’s office and at all Walgreens locations, but testing for COVID-19 cannot.

Lincoln Medical Partners Primary Care recently announced upcoming flu vaccination clinics at all four of its primary care practices.

Damariscotta: Saturday, Sept. 19, 8 a.m. to noon; Wednesday, Sept. 23, 5 to 7 p.m. at Watson Health Center, 24 Miles Center Way. Call 563-4250 for an appointment.

Wiscasset: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 49 Hooper St. Call 882-7911 for an appointment.

Boothbay Harbor: Thursday, Sept. 24, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Family Care Center, 19 St. Andrews Lane. Call 633-7820 for an appointment.

The Waldoboro location’s clinic was held Sept. 15. More LincolnHealth flu vaccine clinics are being planned for October and November.

There are COVID-19 testing locations across the state. To find out where the closest one is to you, visit www.maine.gov/covid19/restartingmaine/keepmainehealthy/testing

Here in Lincoln County, COVID-19 testing is at the LincolnHealth Respiratory Care Clinic, 35 Miles St., Damariscotta. Appointments are required for a drive-through swab test. You do not need a doctor’s referral; to make an appointment, call 563-4353.

In Knox County, at Pen Bay Medical Center, 8 Wellness Ave., Rockport. Appointments are required for a drive-through swab test. No doctor’s referral needed. Make an appointment at 207-301-3040 to be screened.

Wondering if you’ve had have a mild case of COVID-19 because you had some of the symptoms, or maybe knew someone who’d had COVID-19? There is an antibody test being offered by pharmacist-owner Andrew Robertson at Nathan’s Wellness Pharmacy & Apothecary in the Meadow Mall. This, however, is not the same as the swab test that identifies the presence of COVID-19. If the antibody test is positive, then, at some point, you did have COVID-19. But the antibody test will not help you skip quarantine because you’ve already had it; that’s the swab test. The antibody test is not covered by insurance like the swab test is.

And remember: You can be contagious even when you have no or few symptoms. The CDC warns that the first three to four days we have the flu or COVID-19 are the most contagious ones.

Said Nurse Practitioner Mary Rafter at Wiscasset Family Health in Wiscasset, “It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu. We will continue to offer vaccination throughout the flu season, even into January or later. Children, who need two doses of vaccine to be protected, should start the vaccination process sooner, because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.”

While there isn’t a vaccine for COVID-19, there is for the seasonal flu. According to the CDC website, “Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever.” All people from the age of 6 months, should get a flu shot by the end of October. And those in the high risk category might need another flu shot in the winter months. Check with your doctor.