The last thing health care workers need this fall is dueling epidemics, with the seasonal flu and COVID-19 producing such similar symptoms only a deeply embedded nasal swab can tell what ails you. Health care workers have been burdened by the coronavirus pandemic for months, and scientists say each virus makes you more vulnerable to the other. So while we wait for a COVID vaccine, it’s important to get vaccinated – not just for the flu, but the many other preventable diseases that sicken, even kill, New Mexicans every year.
Free shot clinics for children are running across the state through Aug. 15. Free shots are also available for adults. From measles and mumps to whooping cough and chickenpox, a vaccine keeps the recipient healthy and protects those in the community who have weakened immune systems and can’t get vaccinated. They are relying on the rest of us to keep them safe through herd immunity.
The New Mexico Department of Health expects to begin offering flu shots in late September or early October, and a spokesman said businesses will get theirs even sooner. Free flu shots for uninsured adults and children will be offered while supplies last at Public Health Offices across the state. Most drug store chains, primary care physicians and urgent care facilities also offer flu immunizations. The flu season officially begins Oct. 1.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everybody – starting at 6 months of age – should be vaccinated. The DOH says people should begin getting vaccinated soon after the flu vaccine becomes available, ideally by the end of October. Because flu mutates rapidly, a new vaccine is needed every year. It’s also critical for public health that as many New Mexicans as possible get vaccinated for the coronavirus when a much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
Keeping illness in New Mexico at an absolute minimum this year would go a long way in helping everyone – our health care workers, employers, essential workers, school employees and students, families, etc. Symptoms for many viruses can be similar, and as with the flu and COVID-19, people can have no symptoms but still be infected and spread disease to others.
Giving up a little time to get free vaccines is one of the most selfless acts New Mexicans can do right now – it will help protect everyone they come in contact with.