FRANKFORT, KY (STL.News) To bring greater awareness to the important protections vaccines provide, Gov. Andy Beshear, First Lady Britainy Beshear and their children, Will, 11, and Lila, 10, rolled up their sleeves and received flu shots this week at the Capitol.
Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, commissioner of the Department for Public Health Dr. Steven Stack and American Sign Language interpreter Virginia Moore joined the Beshears on Thursday to receive a vaccination against the seasonal flu.
“Britainy and I, and our kids, receive a flu shot each year at this time, because we know it is the single most effective way to prevent the flu,” Gov. Beshear said. “The availability and affordability of the vaccine make it easier than ever to protect yourself and your family, which is especially important this year as we continue to battle COVID-19.”
The Governor emphasized the importance of getting a flu shot this year to blunt the potential for what the medical community fears could be a “twindemic” if seasonal flu outbreaks overwhelm health care systems already stretched thin by COVID-19.
First Lady Beshear added: “I sincerely encourage parents to get their school-age children vaccinated. Doing so will help reduce the spread of the virus. No time is a good time to be sick, but right now is an especially bad time. Kentuckians are making sacrifices to safely return to the classroom and be able to safely participate in more family-oriented and social events, and the flu could block the progress we’ve worked so hard for.”
“During this time of uncertainty, there’s one thing we know for sure: vaccines work,” Lt. Gov. Coleman said. “We’ve all had to become more flexible about a lot of things during this pandemic, but protecting our families from preventable diseases means contacting a provider about getting back on schedule with our immunizations.”
Virginia Moore noted: “The injection didn’t hurt, not one bit.”
It takes a few weeks after vaccination to develop protective immunity, said Dr. Stack.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting the vaccine at the beginning of fall before flu season kicks into high gear. More than ever, because of the pandemic, Kentuckians should get a flu shot this fall.”
Though flu shots do not prevent COVID-19, Dr. Stack said, they do reduce the number of people who get the flu and need hospitalization. That’s important because dozens of Kentuckians end up in the hospital every year because of the flu.
“Also, if you get sick with the flu and have to go to the doctor or hospital, it may not be possible to quickly determine that you have the flu, not COVID-19, which could lead to extra uncertainty and testing,” Dr. Stack noted.
“Both influenza and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses and they have similar symptoms,” said Dr. Stack. “Most people who get sick from the flu will have mild symptoms that will go away within a couple of weeks, but people at high risk can end up in the hospital — and even die.”
A person can get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, Dr. Stack added. “These are different viruses and different illnesses. A double infection is possible in the same patient. Likewise, contracting one disease does not make you immune to the other.”
Flu shots are a good way to prevent influenza, but there is still no vaccine for COVID-19.
The following are easy steps Kentuckians can take to help prevent both:
- Wash your hands often;
- Avoid close contact with known sick people;
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes;
- Keep a distance of at least six feet from people who don’t live in your house;
- Wear a mask when in public; and
- Stay home if you have any flu-like symptoms.
Members of the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan (KEHP), which includes state employees, public school employees and pre-65 state retirees, can receive a free vaccine at a variety of participating provider locations, including the LivingWell Health clinics, some doctors’ offices, health clinics, retail pharmacies, local health departments and other participating providers. KEHP members enrolled in the LivingWell program can earn five points (1 point = $1) when they receive a flu shot. Additionally, Kentuckians covered under other health plans are likely to benefit from a $0 copay for the vaccine.