Daily Record infographic by Colton Ashabranner
Flu testing minimal but COVID-19 precautions help prevent viral spread
As COVID-19 sees its first anniversary come and go, flu season has been far from typical.
In Hays County there have been zero reported flu-related fatalities this season according to Hays County Local Health Department. However, there have been a few dozen positive cases reported.
“There is minimal amount of testing for the flu occurring, but we were already doing non-medical interventions that were going to help fight against the spreading of the flu virus,” Epidemiologist Eric Schneider said. “Social distance, regular hand washing and being aware of any symptoms you have are three of the points we emphasize every year to fight the flu. The addition of face coverings was just another deterrent that is helping.”
Regarding this year’s flu season, Schneider said early prevention has been key.
“People also got flu vaccines before the start of this flu season, which obviously helped this year,” he said.
Although flu season has been different this year, COVID-19 has maintained its presence, but vaccines are being administered. However, it’s hard to say it’s a one-and-done proposition, meaning folks may have to be vaccinated annually.
“In terms of annual COVID-19 vaccinations, there’s more research needed,” Schneider added. “The CDC is hoping that antibodies created from the vaccine will stay at a high enough level but are not sure when they will begin to wane and make the person more susceptible to an infection.”
The one silver lining in the fight against COVID-19 is on Monday vaccines will be made available to everyone in Texas.
The Texas Department of State Health Services' announcement comes as the state expects to receive an increase in supplies. The state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel recommended opening vaccination to everyone who falls under the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorizations, the DSHS said Tuesday. Under the FDA’s emergency use authorizations, those 16 and older can receive a Pfizer vaccine, while only those 18 and older can receive a Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shot.
“We are closing in on 10 million doses administered in Texas, and we want to keep up the momentum as the vaccine supply increases,” said Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services and the chair of the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel. “As eligibility opens up, we are asking providers to continue to prioritize people who are the most at risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death – such as older adults.”
DSHS has directed vaccine providers to prioritize people 80 years old or older when scheduling appointments and accommodate anyone in that age group who presents for vaccination, whether they have an appointment, by immediately moving them to the front of the line. That will ensure vaccination of anyone 80 or older with as small a burden on themselves as possible.
Also, next week DSHS will launch a website to allow people to register for a shot through some public health providers. The public will be able to enroll in the Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler to identify upcoming vaccine clinics hosted by DSHS or a participating local health department and be notified when new clinics and appointments become available. People can continue to find additional providers though the DSHS Vaccine Information page at dshs. texas.gov/covidvaccine.
Online registration will be the best option for most people. For those for whom that is not an option, DSHS will launch a toll-free number to provide assistance making an appointment with a participating provider or locating another provider that has a vaccine available.
To date, Texas has administered more than 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, equating to nearly six million people with at least one dose and more than 3.4 million fully vaccinated.