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State health officials urging people to get flu shot

As we continue to navigate the COVID-19, pandemic flu season is here. Newswatch 16's Amanda Eustice gives us a look at what people can expect this year.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — With relaxed COVID-19 measures this year, health officials are worried about a potentially severe flu season.

"Although we know we had a very mild flu season last year, this year is really full of a lot of unknowns," said Dr. Denise Johnson, acting Pennsylvania physician general.

State health officials say because of the ongoing pandemic, it's more important than ever for people to get both vaccines.

Anyone older than 6 months can get the vaccine and can either opt to get a shot or a nasal spray.

"As our communities start to relax COVID-19 containment measures, such as masking and social distancing, we're seeing a resurgence of other respiratory viruses, which does not bode well for the flu season ahead," said Ray Barishansky, deputy secretary for health preparedness and community protection in Pennsylvania.

Last year, there were only about 4,000 flu cases in Pennsylvania. Health officials are hoping to keep that number low again.

"It is safe to visit your doctor's office, pharmacy, local walk-in clinic, or grocery store to get your flu vaccine. It's important to act now before the flu season picks up so your protected," Barishansky said.

If you don't have insurance, you can call the state's health center to get a free vaccine.

A list of upcoming clinics is posted here.

"People who get the flu shots, if you do get the flu, those illnesses are milder. And it really can prevent hospitalizations. We know that the flu is still deadly. Many people die every year from the flu and so getting that vaccination can really protect you," Dr. Johnson added.