Health experts are stressing the importance of getting a flu shot this fall and warn about possible complications of battling the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.
The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield explained why he is concerned about battling both viruses in the coming months and he reiterated the need to take coronavirus seriously.
"For your country right now and for the war that we're in against COVID, I'm asking you to do four simple things: wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and be smart about crowds," he told WebMD, "I'm not asking some of America to do it. We all gotta do it." He said the upcoming months could be, "the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we've ever had," and he stressed the need for a flu shot, especially when it comes to protecting children.
"By getting vaccinated, you can protect your children," he continued. "When we look at the mortality that we see with flu, one thing is for certain. The kids that get vaccinated, they basically get protected against death."
CNN reports the CDC has procured 10 million doses of the flu vaccine for uninsured individuals this year, compared to the typical 500,000 doses it usually has on hand.
One concern is how an outbreak of the flu -- in addition to the ongoing COVID pandemic -- could strain and overwhelm hospitals.
Dr. Randy Bergen, the clinical lead for Kaiser Permanente Northern California flu vaccine program says, “Not getting a flu vaccine is like not wearing a mask. If you’re not going to walk into your grocery store without a mask because you know it protects other people, you need to get a flu shot too.”
He explains that because the coronavirus has been shown to potentially affect multiple aspects of someone's health that the combination of both COVID and the flu could be dire.
“What we know is these are viruses that affect multiple organs,” Dr. Bergen says. “The repercussions of influenza and COVID-19 seem to be multifactorial, especially for those that have underlying conditions and recovery can be very long. With that information, it may not be common to get those infections at the same time but I would worry that those getting them in sequence, it’s not going to be good for them.”
A potential sign of hope is that influenza rates in the southern hemisphere (which has their flu season before America) have reportedly dropped. Countries like Argentina, South Africa, and New Zealand have all reported drastic declines in the flu, with experts citing mask-wearing and social distancing and limited travel as the reason for the sharp drop.
Dr. Bergen adds, “More than ever it’s in your best interest and your friends and family’s best interest to get a flu vaccine. You may have concerns about leaving your house to do anything but make an effort to get a flu vaccine this year.”
More resources and information on flu shots, including possibly free flu shots for children, can be found at the CDC's The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.