Evanston prepares for flu season, officials encourage residents to get vaccinated

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David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

COVID-19 testing at the Community-Accessible Testing & Education truck in Philadelphia on September 25, 2020. Evanston city officials and medical experts are encouraging residents to get vaccinated ahead of this year’s flu season.

Delaney Nelson, Assistant City Editor

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, city officials and medical experts are recommending community members get vaccinated in preparation for this year’s flu season.

Flu season, according to Dr. Michael Ison, Feinberg professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases, starts in late November and normally lasts until May. He said with the ongoing pandemic, the country faces the risk of overburdening the health system during flu season this year.

“What we know from COVID-19 is in areas like Italy and New York, where the healthcare systems became overwhelmed because of the number of cases that were coming in, there were more patients that died of the infection,” Ison said. “Many people that should have been hospitalized, couldn’t be because of lack of capacity.”

Because of this, Ison said it’s critical people get their flu shots this year. He said receiving the vaccine doesn’t necessarily mean someone won’t get the flu, but it will reduce the severity of the illness. Other preventative measures like wearing a mask, socially distancing and washing hands can also reduce the spread of the flu.

The city is also encouraging residents to get vaccinated. In September, the city’s Health and Human Services department partnered with Walgreens for a vaccination event at James Park Field House. 
“With COVID-19 still present in our community, getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever,” said Ike Ogbo, the city’s health and human services director, in a news release. “Although flu vaccines won’t prevent COVID-19, they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, decrease hospitalizations, and help conserve scarce medical resources. Getting a flu vaccine is the best line of defense when it comes to protecting yourself and those around you from getting the flu.”

There are several places residents can go to get flu shots. Jewel-Osco is providing walk-in flu shot appointments for free with most insurance, or for $49 without insurance. Walgreens is doing the same, at a price of $41 without insurance. The CVS MinuteClinic on Sherman Ave. has walk-in appointments, and while the Howard location is no longer accepting walk-in appointments, they will provide seasonal flu shots for $50 without insurance. NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Evanston Hospital is also providing walk-in appointments, but AMITA Health Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston is only administering flu shots to employees at this time.

Ison said while flu shots may be expensive for individuals without insurance, getting the vaccine is likely worth the price. He also said residents who are uninsured can look for organizations hosting flu drives or other free flu clinics.

“Even if you had to pay for the $25 for the flu shot, if it protected you and prevented you from having to get sick and go see a doctor, which would be a lot more than $25, or worse get admitted to the hospital, it’s money well spent to prevent you from getting sick,” Ison said.

Evanston resident Amy Funk said she plans on getting her whole family vaccinated, as she does every year. She said she has tried to get her family vaccinated twice, but the Walgreens pharmacy has been out of the shot. She said she saw this as an indicator that many in the community have been getting vaccinated.

Funk’s sister is an emergency room nurse, so Funk said she has seen firsthand the effects of an overburdened healthcare system and overworked health workers. She said there’s no reason not to get a flu vaccine.

Even though she’s seen some in the community post online about their resistance to getting the vaccine, Funk said she thinks most in the community will be responsible and go in for a flu shot.

“It’s a community responsibility and something that we owe to the people who’ve worked literally around the clock at threat to their own lives and those of their families to keep us all safe,” Funk said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @delaneygnelson

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