MOUNTAIN BROOK, Ala. (WIAT) – With the start of this year’s flu season coming to Alabama Friday, health officials expect to see higher cases of influenza this year.

At Ritch’s Pharmacy in Mountain Brook, owner and pharmacist Ralph Sorrell said they average about 2,000 vaccine doses for the flu in a season. Sorrell said that so far, they’ve given over 10,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We have been doing flu shots at this pharmacy since pharmacists were allowed to,” Sorrell said.

Ritch’s just recently started giving out its flu shot this season. Sorrell said it’s best to get one now through two weeks before Thanksgiving.

“You’ll start building protective antibodies the minute you get the shot, but in about two weeks you’ll be at your full protection level,” he said.

According to public health officials, the injection is even more important to get this season.

“Every life is important; every life is precious,” assistant state health officer Dr. Karen Landers said.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health said that in 2018, 257 adults died from the flu. Last year, it was only 22. It says about half of Alabamians got their flu vaccine in 2020 – in a typical year the state averages 40% or less.

“We need to do the same things for influenza that we’re trying to do for COVID and that is to reduce our ways to contract influenza,” Landers said during the Medical Association of the State of Alabama’s weekly COVID-19 update Thursday.

This includes best practices like wearing masks and extra hand washing.

“These days people are out and about more, and you see fewer masks out in public,” Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama senior medical director Dr. Anne Schmidt said. “We know that those things that help to prevent COVID also help to prevent the flu.”

Schmidt wanted to remind folks that the CDC does say it’s safe to get your COVID-19 and influenza vaccination simultaneously.

“We had a lot of people who were admitted to hospitals with a COVID diagnosis, we don’t want to see the same thing with flu and the most effective way you can prevent that is to get your flu vaccine,” Schmidt said.

She stressed that it’s never too late to get either shot.

“The more we can vaccinate the safer we’ll be,” Sorrell said.

All vaccines have four components – including two A and two B strains. You can get your COVID or influenza vaccine at Ritch’s Pharmacy six days a week to protect yourself from either virus this season.