In the United States, public health officials are already worried about a recent surge in new COVID-19 cases and now they are dreaded even more due to a severe flu season this fall and winter, expecting a potentially dangerous “twindemic.”
The concern about the twindemic is so great that the officials have been urging patients to get their flu shots even before it becomes available in doctors’ offices.
Experts believe that even a mild flu season could stagger hospitals that have already been filled with COVID-19 cases.
The health officials are worried that large numbers of people could forgo flu shots, which could eventually increase the risk of widespread flu outbreaks.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield has been urging corporate leaders to find ways to inoculate employees. The agency usually purchases 500,000 doses for uninsured adults; however, this year, it has ordered an additional 9.3 million doses.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has been urging people to get the flu shot, “so that you could at least blunt the effect of one of those two potential respiratory infections.”
In the United States, the flu vaccine is rarely mandated, except for some medical care facilities and nursery schools. However, the statewide University of California system has announced that because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it will require all 230,000 employees and 280,000 students to get the flu shot by November 1.
The symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are somewhat similar, which include fever, sore throat, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. Doctors believe that flu can make patients vulnerable to serious COVID-19 illness and coming down with both viruses could be deadly.
The CDC said the last year’s flu season in the United States was mild but even a mild flu season could take a toll. Flu season usually occurs in the fall and winter, peaking from December to February, according to the CDC.
Now, fighting flu during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could present significant challenges, which is why officials are reaching out to local health departments, medical providers, and corporate offices to arrange distribution.
Drugstores and even supermarkets are expected to play a key role in distributing the flu vaccine than they have in previous years. As of this week, CVS and Walgreens will have flu shots available, with Walgreens expected to host additional off-site flu vaccine clinics in community centers and churches. Litjen Tan, Chief Strategy Officer at the Immunization Action Coalition, said, “Access is a problem for all adult vaccines. Adults may think, ‘If I can get the flu shot easily, I might consider it.’”