MINOT, N.D. (KXNET) — The impact of our state’s surge in respiratory infections is now impacting our communities.

So much so, health officials are calling on the public to help keep others safe by getting vaccinated against the flu.

An immunization specialist at First District Health Clinic in Minot says the number of flu vaccines given this year is significantly lower than in past years. And says, the amount of time spent wearing masks during COVID has compromised our immune systems.

Now that most people have given up on wearing masks in public, their bodies may not be ready for the influx of viruses.

50 cases of influenza were reported in the week of November 5, and 862 cases were reported in the week of December 3.

To increase access to prevention, First District Health Unit will not require appointments for flu and COVID vaccinations in the Minot office for the rest of December.

“We really want to encourage people and warn people that the viruses are out there. And the healthcare system is having a tough time dealing with it. So, we want the community to do its part. Get vaccinated, even if the virus isn’t going to affect you, it is affecting the elderly and the young. And we just want to keep it out of our communities and keep people safe,” said Lacey Mcnichols, a Public Health Nurse for First District Health Unit in Minot.

First District Health Unit is also extending its hours for more access to vaccinations. And no one will be refused care if they can’t pay.