January 10, 2022
St. Peter's Health encourages Helena-area residents to get their annual influenza vaccine, more commonly known as the flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the yearly flu shot is recommended for everyone six months or older, with rare exceptions.
Influenza is circulating throughout the state. According to St. Peter's Health Laboratory Director Matt Aakre, the St. Peter's laboratory processed 22 positive flu samples in the final week of December, signaling the presence of flu in the community.
"The flu season starts a little later in Montana, and we can always learn a lot from flu activity in other parts of the country," said Aakre. "Right now, areas of the east coast are seeing flu season pick up significantly. We should take note of this and get vaccinated as soon as possible."
The flu shot may help prevent those who are vaccinated from getting the virus, and it may help blunt the severity of symptoms and reduce the likelihood of needing medical care, including intensive care.
According to a 2014 study, flu vaccination reduced a child's risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit admission by 74% between 2010 and 2012. Likewise, a 2018 study showed that between 2012 and 2015, flu vaccination among adults reduced the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit with the flu by 82%.
St. Peter's Health has seen fewer patients receive the flu vaccine this year.
"There are misconceptions about flu shot that may be contributing to the decrease in flu vaccination," said St. Peter’s Primary Care Provider Dr. Andrew Gilbert. "It is essential to know that the COVID-19 vaccine does not offer any protection against the flu. Plus, there are no contraindications between the vaccines, meaning you can get both shots on the same day if you would like. There is no waiting period. Notably, the flu shot is as crucial as ever as we enter the heart of respiratory virus season. Our local vaccination rates will have an impact on the health and wellness of our community-at-large and our health care system."
All St. Peter's Primary Care Patients can receive the flu shot by scheduling a nurse visit appointment. Most pharmacies, pediatric clinics and other medical clinics across the community also offer the vaccine. St. Peter’s would also like to remind community members to stay home when sick unless seeking medical care or COVID-19 testing.