NJ doctors push flu shots to keep medical resources free for COVID-19 patients this fall

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By KYW Newsradio 1060
VOORHEES, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — Getting your flu shot this year is more important than ever, say doctors, because it will help hospitals ensure they are prepared to handle a potential spike in COVID-19 patients.

Virtua Health and Wellness Center staff members lined up outside to get their flu shots ahead of the season. 

“It’s our intention to vaccinate all of our 14,000 employees through the next month," Dr. Martin Topiel said. 

Topiel, Virtua's chief of infection prevention, says getting a flu shot is always recommended, especially for immunocompromised people, but there is added incentive this year because the flu and COVID-19 have such similar symptoms.

“You might see an onslaught of patients coming to the hospital, concerned about COVID, concerned about influenza. Which one do they have? We’re doing our best to promote the idea of preventing influenza as well as COVID-19," he said.

“Getting a flu vaccine will not protect you against COVID-19,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichelli said during a recent COVID-19 briefing in Trenton. "However, the vaccine can reduce flu illnesses and hospitalizations. This can also help to preserve potentially scarce health care resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

There’s plenty of time.

“The best time to get vaccinated is early fall,” Persichelli said. “Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial. And vaccinations should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.”

The important thing, Virtua's Topiel says, is to just get it done.

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KYW Newsradio's David Madden contributed to this report.