Unpredictable flu season ahead, medical experts encouraging COVID vaccine and flu shot

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 6:48 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Medical experts continue to emphasize the importance of getting the COVID vaccine and now the flu shot as the United States approaches an unpredictable flu season and potential “twindemic.”

The U.S. often prepares for flu season by looking at countries in the southern hemisphere where the flu hits first. Doctors say countries like Australia had a very mild season which is making our flu season a difficult one to forecast.

“I think the big concern is you’re going to have someone presenting flu-like symptoms. We’re going to have to see what that really is. Is it influenza, COVID or some other viral illness?” said Dr. Sudha Nagalingam, the Medical Director of El Rio’s HIV Infectious Disease Clinic.

Many COVID-19 mitigation measures, that kept the flu at bay last season, have been lifted.

“Physical distancing, reduction of the masks mandates may lead to higher rates of flu,” said Dr. Saman Nematollah, an assistant professor of medicine at UArizona College of Medicine.

The flu and COVID may spread easier with people returning to work and school. For these reasons, doctors are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated against COVID and the flu. Experts say there’s no waiting period needed between the two types of vaccines and people can even get both on the same day.

“No contraindication. It doesn’t seem to be effecting the effectiveness of either vaccine,” Dr. Nagalingam said.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the effectiveness of the flu shot. Each season it varies with efficacy rates ranging from ten to sixty percent.

“Comparing it to the COVID vaccine, the MRNA vaccines have proven to be so durable. We’re looking at 95% efficacy,” she said.

Doctors say the COVID vaccine’s data shows just how successful it is against protecting people from serious illness and hospitalization. Last week Pfizer announced it has started a first of its kind human clinical study of MRNA-based flu vaccines.

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