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Local hospitals stress importance of flu, COVID-19 vaccinations

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Local hospitals are continuing to stress flu and COVID-19 vaccination as viral spread remains of high concern.

COVID vacccine

A syringe of COVID-19 vaccine is prepped at Gundersen Health System in Onalaska.

Mayo Clinic Health System Sept. 28 opened its seasonal flu clinic sites in Southwest Wisconsin, giving 1,800 shots the last week of September. Gundersen is currently offering flu shots only during regular appointments and will open its dedicated flu shot sites Monday.

Mayo notes many persons who received their flu shots last week also opted to get a COVID vaccine dose onsite. Gundersen Health System says the last week of September its locations provided 2,400 COVID vaccine doses, many of them third doses of Pfizer for those eligible. Gundersen also offers flu shots and COVID vaccines during the same appointment.

After large local events, including Oktoberfest and the Wisconsin Counties Association annual conference in La Crosse, Mayo anticipates COVID testing will increase in the coming weeks.

Mayo says it “does not routinely recommend or provide antibody testing for proof of immunity,” and both Gundersen and Mayo stress that having been previously infected with COVID is not a guarantee of adequate immunity.

“Providers would like to remind those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 that they shouldn’t assume they are fully protected. The level of immunity from infection wanes over time. Therefore, the CDC recommends that everyone be vaccinated even if they’ve had the virus,” Mayo says.

Gundersen continues to see a high number of hospitalized COVID patients, with between 25 to 35 systemwide on a given day. This includes younger individuals, with the delta variant causing increased severity of infection.

Gundersen points to Wisconsin Department of Health Services data showing the efficacy of completing the vaccine series: in August infections among the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated were at a rate of 1,413.7 per 100,000, with hospitalizations 98.5 per 100,000 and deaths 11.7 per 100,000. For those fully vaccinated, those rates were 360.7 per 100,000; 11.5 per 100,000; and 1.1 per 100,000, respectively.

“COVID-19 vaccination combined with masking, distancing and hand hygiene at work, school, and any indoor, public spaces significantly lowers your risk of COVID-19 infection,” Gundersen says. “Vaccinating and masking help take pressure off the incredible Gundersen staff caring for hospitalized COVID-19 patients and staff caring for the many patients who need non-COVID emergency care and care for a variety of illnesses and conditions.”

The Pfizer vaccine is currently approved for those 12 and older. Moderna and Johnson and Johnson versions are available to those 18 and older. Boosters, or third doses, of Pfizer are offered six months post second dose to the immuno-compromised, those over 65, persons working in high risk settings and people with select health conditions.

In addition to Gundersen and Mayo, local COVID vaccine providers include Walgreens, Walmart, the La Crosse County Health Department and Weber Health Logistics. Contact your provider of choice for days, times and versions available.

Gundersen patients may also schedule their shot via MyChart or by calling 608-775-6829. Mayo patients can schedule through Patient Online Services or by calling 608-392-9633. (tncms-asset)4b4f949c-4f67-583e-b213-80f00b78d5d1[1](/tncms-asset)

An Oklahoma epidemiologist helps assuage concerns about the accelerated vaccine development timeline.

Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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