RED WING — Not enough people in southeastern Minnesota are getting their seasonal influenza vaccine despite warnings from the health care community about a coronavirus double threat.

"Every one of us should be getting the flu vaccine every year, and this year it's more important than ever," said Dr. Robert Jacobson, pediatrician and vaccine researcher with Mayo Clinic Children’s Center.

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Only 36% of the roughly 500,000 residents in the 11-county Southeast Minnesota Immunization Connection region have been vaccinated so far. That's one percentage point down from this time last year, Jacobson said, and much lower than what health experts would like to see.

COVID-19 and the flu have similar symptoms, including fever and cough, though COVID-19 appears to spread more easily and cause more serious illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Among the challenges to getting a flu shot this year has been pandemic-related safety measures making it harder for patients to seek in-person meidcal care, Jacobson said. Mayo Clinic's flu vaccine clinics were held by appointment only this fall, and some nearby school immunization events were cancelled.

The flu season typically picks up between December and March. It can take a couple weeks for protection to kick in from a flu shot.

There were 485 active cases of COVID-19 in Goodhue County as of Monday, Nov. 16, according to the county health department. The state added 7,444 newly reported cases, bringing the ongoing total to 231,018.

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