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DHEC calls for flu shots as state deals with COVID as well

In DHEC's weekly briefing, Dr. Jane Kelly pushed flu vaccinations this season.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — It's that time of year again. Physicians are urging everyone to get their flu shots as the season is approaching. 

The flu vaccine is already being advertised from doctor's offices to pharmacies as summer closes out. This year the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) says it is more important than ever to roll up your sleeve.

RELATED: Why it's more important than ever to get the flu shot this year

"It remains incredibly important for everybody to get their flu shots this year as the COVID19 pandemic rages on in our state and across the country. We need to keep ourselves as healthy as possible," said assistant state epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly. "Getting your flu shot is the absolute best way to protect yourself from getting the flu this year. And getting the flu shot not only protects your health, but it helps keep you from getting severely sick and needing medical attention." Dr. Kelly says since the hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID19, getting medical attention is not the easiest thing to do. 

Dr. Kelly says the flu vaccine available this year protects against the four most common flu viruses expected to circulate and it does not cause the flu itself. 

RELATED: Prisma Health is offering free flu shots in October. Here's where.

Dr. Kelly also says that they are continuing to stay connected with their federal partners when it comes to approval of the COVID19 vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.

While Pfizer announced earlier this week that its shot is safe and effective for that age group, it hasn't yet been approved.

"The vaccine hasn't yet been approved for children 5 to 11 but it's promising to hear the report from the vaccine manufacturer," Dr. Kelly says. She says while she hopes the approval comes soon, they must wait for the proper steps to be taken. 

RELATED: Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine works in kids ages 5 to 11

Kelly also spoke about proposed booster shots, saying, "They noted that there's a lack of safety data on the extra doses. Pfizer presented really a small number of persons who had received booster doses in their studies and the advisory committee really raised some doubts about the value of mass boosters. Do we really need boosters?" Kelly said.

RELATED: US panel backs COVID-19 boosters only for elderly, high-risk

Another subject talked about was cases and hospitalizations, which Kelly said seems to be leveling off in the Palmetto State. 

Kelly said while there hasn't been a huge surge in cases recently like we saw a few weeks ago, we still need to be vigilant. "Unfortunately I don't feel we can be confident that we have turned the corner. I think that we still have a lot of challenges with our hospitals being filled with severely ill individuals coming close to capacity in many cases, not all filled with COVID cases. It's certainly having an impact on our healthcare system," Kelly said. "I am hopeful that this is a sign that we will have a continued downturn, but I'm nervous about people becoming too complacent. 

To hear the full briefing, click here.