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Others opinion: Flu shots more important than ever

The Free Press, Mankato

Last year’s flu season was almost nonexistent thanks to people wearing masks and social distancing.

But getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever.

New studies are predicting the coming flu season will be worse than in normal years. One study predicted that there could be 100,000 to 400,000 more flu hospitalizations in the 2021-2022 flu season compared with a typical season.

That wouldn’t be good news for a pandemic-weary public and an overwhelmed health care system.

Because too many people have refused the COVID-19 vaccine, hospitalization rates have soared recently. The states with the lowest vaccination rates have the highest number of virus cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

That’s putting a big strain on many hospitals where ICU beds and even regular hospital rooms are at or near capacity.

Even in Minnesota there were recently 500 people battling COVID-19 in hospitals, with 138 patients in intensive care beds. The hospitalization rate in the state in nearing the “high risk” level.

But a bad flu season could be avoided if enough people get their flu shots. Health officials say the flu could be greatly reduced this coming season if vaccination rates increased by 20% to 50% compared with a typical year.

The flu season alone is always a concern, and with coronavirus hospitalizations high, it will be more of a concern this year.

The flu vaccination not only protects you but the people you come into contact with and those who can’t get the shot for health reasons, including infants. Local flu shots are available and are almost always free.

Don’t wait until the flu arrives to take care of this important preventive measure.