MAG encouraging Georgians to get vaccinated for COVID & flu ASAP

With more than 8,400 members who represent every specialty and practice setting, the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) is appealing to every age-appropriate Georgian to get vaccinated for both COVID-19 and the flu as soon as possible.

“COVID-19 is a respiratory infection, so co-infection can bring a much higher risk of mortality,” says MAG President Lisa Perry-Gilkes, M.D., F.A.C.S. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from the COVID-19 and flu viruses, period.”

Dr. Perry-Gilkes cautions patients “not to get lulled into a false sense of security because last year’s flu season was so mild. This could be a worse flu season, which is why I am encouraging every Georgian to get vaccinated as soon as possible – and no later than the end of October.”

She adds that patients can now get the COVID-19, flu and other vaccines administered at the same time.

“There are three safe and highly effective COVID-19 vaccines,” says Dr. Perry-Gilkes. “But with the spread of the delta variant, we are seeing breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated – and the preliminary evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who become infected with the delta variant can spread the virus to other people.”

The CDC recommends that every person who is 12 years or older get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Dr. Perry-Gilkes also notes that, “Patients who are six months or older should get vaccinated for the flu once a year, and they should ideally discuss their vaccination options with their primary care physician as a part of their overall health maintenance program.

“Babies who are less than six months old are too young to get the flu vaccine, so it is especially important for the people who spend time around these infants to be vaccinated. Meanwhile, pregnant women should be vaccinated because the risk associated with flu complications is higher for them. And because they pass their protective antibodies along to their unborn babies, their babies will be protected from the flu in their first few months of life.”

Children who are between six months and eight years old who are getting vaccinated for the flu for the first time need two doses of the vaccine, which must be administered at least four weeks apart.

Older patients and those who have underlying medical conditions should get vaccinated because they are at higher risk of both flu and COVID-19 complications – and there are special high dose and adjuvanted flu shots for patients who are 65 years and older.

“It can take up to two weeks to build up the protective antibodies, which is why physicians are encouraging their patients to get vaccinated before the flu season begins,” explains Dr. Perry-Gilkes.

Flu symptoms include high fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. Most people get better in a few days, but the flu can lead to pneumonia and other serious and potentially deadly complications.

COVID-19 symptoms include fever or chills, a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, a headache, the new loss of taste or smell, a sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

If someone develops flu like symptoms – and even if they have been vaccinated – Dr. Perry-Gilkes says that they should discuss the need for flu antiviral medications with their primary care physician.

In addition to getting vaccinated, the best ways to avoid getting the flu are to…

– Use a hand sanitizer
– Wash your hands with soap or an alcohol-based rub on a regular basis
– Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
– Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
– Clean your living and work-space surfaces on a regular basis
– Avoid contact with anybody who has the flu
– Stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (unless you require medical care)

As for COVID-19, MAG is strongly encouraging Georgians to…

– Wear a mask in indoors public spaces, in crowded outdoor settings, and for activities with close contact with others who may not be not fully vaccinated
– Practice social distancing
– Clean and disinfect their living and work-space surfaces on a regular basis
– Get tested if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms

Dr. Perry-Gilkes says that, “If you come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested three to five days after the date of your exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after the exposure or until a negative test result. You should also remain in insolation if you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the prior 10 days or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.”

Resources

CDC ‘Influenza Vaccine Recommendations’ website

CDC COVID-19 website

Georgia DPH ‘Influenza: What You Need to Know’ web page

CDC’s ‘Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People’

Click here to watch a ‘Move the Needle’ video that was produced by Sandra Fryhofer, M.D. – a graduate of the MAG Foundation’s Georgia Physicians Leadership Academy – to increase vaccination rates in Georgia.