September 2020 Update: In addition to availability at VA medical facilities, eligible Veterans can receive a no-cost seasonal flu vaccination through one of more than 60,000 current in-network community retail pharmacies or urgent care locations. Visit https://www.va.gov/communitycare/flushot.asp for details.
Flu shots are important. Just ask VA North Texas patient and U.S. Army Veteran, Curtis Thiede. He was among the very first people in line on a Thursday morning at Dallas VA Medical Center’s flu clinic.
“I didn’t get the flu shot a few years ago and I ended up getting the flu and it hit me hard,” said Thiede “I was out for three weeks. I couldn’t even get out of bed.”
With flu season underway, Veterans like Thiede are taking advantage of walk-in flu clinics throughout VA locations. Veterans, employees, medical residents and volunteers should get their shot before the season and risk of exposure to influenza ramps up.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2017-2018 influenza season saw some 49 million flu illnesses hit the United States. That’s more than the combined populations of Texas and Florida. The flu hospitalized more than 960,000 people, with 79,000 related deaths.
“Our slogan at VA North Texas this flu season is To Protect and Defend,” said Sheila Wise, Nurse Manager and chair of VA North Texas’ Flu Task Force. “Early prevention is key and getting the vaccination now is the really the protection against the flu.”
Flu shots reduce risk
Studies show flu shots reduce flu related illnesses and serious complications. These can result in hospitalization or even death. CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions including staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent handwashing to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses.
“It’s our goal to protect our patients, colleagues and others in the VA community, including employees, by getting vaccinated,” said Wise.
Veterans across the country who can’t make it to a VA facility for the flu shot can visit a Walgreens. Veterans can receive a no cost flu vaccination by presenting their Veterans Health Identification card. The partnership with Walgreens began in 2014, and for the 2018-2019 season, Walgreens provided over 104,000 vaccinations to Veterans, expanding access to enrolled Veterans living in rural areas.
Thiede is a believer and advocate. He said his lack of awareness a few years ago led to the flu.
“Everyone should definitely get vaccinated and get their flu shot,” said Thiede. “I definitely don’t want to ever get that sick with the flu again.”
To find VHA facilities, go to https://www.va.gov/find-locations/?facilityType=health.
To find Walgreens facilities, go to https://www.walgreens.com/storelocator/find.jsp.
Jennifer Roy is a public affairs specialist with VA North Texas Health Care System.