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#FluVaxJax initiative kicks off to increase flu shots, save hospital beds

Getting a flu vaccine isn't just about you. This year it means conserving much-needed hospital beds.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A new campaign to keep you safe from another virus kicks off Wednesday on the First Coast.

First Coast News is helping launch #FluVaxJax. Groups from across our community, especially health care systems, are educating our neighbors about how important it is to get a flu shot this year.

The goal is to bump the First Coast's flu shot rate up by 11%. Every year about 37% of people on the First Coast get flu shots, but health care workers say this year that needs to change.

Getting your flu vaccine isn't just about you. This year it means conserving much-needed hospital beds.

Wednesday morning at 9, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was joined by Duval County Medical Society Foundation President, Dr. Sunil Joshi, to announce the #FluVaxJax campaign to increase flu vaccinations on the First Coast. 

"Number one, you know that you aren't going to be taking resources that someone else in the community might need if they get more sick than you," SAID Dr. Ivan Porter, a Mayo Clinic nephrologist.

"You don't want to mistake the symptoms of COVID with the flu," said CVS Pharmacy Manager Dr. Bita Bijanfar.

Getting a flu shot can protect your family, neighbors, school, and community.

"Those in vulnerable populations like pregnancy," said Porter. "We think about chronic illness, but also those women that are pregnant."

The CDC reports those most at-risk of complications from the flu are pregnant women, the elderly, and people with health conditions. 

Lower child vaccination rates this year are a big concern for doctors, who are watching their number of hospital beds as the year of COVID-19 turns into flu season.

"The purpose of this campaign is to increase that awareness so people understand that a lot more people are gonna be at risk because they're behind on vaccinations," Porter said.

Doctors do not want that to happen with your flu shot. There are some differences this year to know about before you go.

"We'll be taking their temperatures as they come in to get their vaccine," said Bijanfar about getting your flu shot at CVS. "There will also be a COVID-19 questionnaire form that they'll fill out. We'll have proper social distancing with the six feet. So they should feel really safe coming in to get it but it will look a little different this year."

How do you know if you have the flu or COVID-19? Doctors say two symptoms will be very distinct with the flu: a high fever and significant body aches.

"Get tested for both and that's a good discussion to have with your primary care provider," said Mayo Clinic Primary Care Physician Dr. Stephen McMullen. 

One thing we do know in 2020 is about the flu shot, but doctors are still busy debunking myths.

"Maybe they thought they got the flu from the vaccine, which we know is not possible,"said McMullen. "So I just remind people that that's from maybe you got the vaccine and then you got some other kind of illness in the weeks following."

Doctors say they're hoping this year the flu season won't be as bad because we're doing more things than ever to stay healthy.

Before you go to get your flu shot check to see if you can fill out your questionnaire and consent form online like you can at CVS.

If you don't have health insurance, look up where you can get your flu shot here.

Read more about #FluVaxJax here.

Read about the flu from the CDC here.

RELATED: #FluVaxJax: Why you should get the flu vaccine in the midst of this pandemic

RELATED: Epidemiologist says getting a flu shot will help preserve hospital resources during the pandemic