ELKTON — With COVID-19 rising back up and striking with ferocity, health care workers are urging people to get the flu vaccine to protect from seasonal flu and also help these workers determine if you have flu or COVID.

Ryan Kimball, nurse practitioner with ChristianaCare Union Hospital, said getting the vaccine — which this year protects against Flu A and Flu B variants — will help providers determine exactly what is making you sick if you need to see a doctor.

Consider it process of elimination, Kimball said.

“COVID has a wide range of symptoms, many of which are similar to seasonal flu,” Kimball said. However doctors can eliminate a Flu A or B diagnosis in patients that have received the vaccine.

“And the more people that get the vaccine the more herd immunity there will be,” he said. In other words, the virus has less places to go and will die off sooner.

“We’re seeing seasonal flu already,” Kimball said, indicating that people should move now to get the vaccine, which is a killed virus and will not give the recipient the flu. Any illness that appears soon after is simply the body’s immune response kicking in, he said.

Health officials recommend that anyone ages 6 months and older get a flu vaccine. It’s especially important for the very young, the very old, pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system or a chronic health condition such as heart or lung disease and diabetes.

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, Kimball said by getting vaccinated now it will give your body time to become immune before seeing family and friends.

It should be noted here that, with the nationwide surge in COVID cases, the Centers for Disease Control insists that large gatherings should be avoided as well as family gatherings. It is at these family events that researchers are seeing the highest increase in COVID cases.

Kimball said if too many people ignore the call for seasonal flu vaccines that could cause another pandemic.

Maryland Department of Health has a new website to help locate free clinics for the vaccine. Go to marylandvax.org.

Kimball has heard all the reasons not to get the flu vaccine and has a response for every one of them, including “I’ve never had the flu so why get the shot?”

“That’s like saying, “I’ve never been in a car accident so I’ll never wear my seat belt,’” Kimball said.

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