SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Amid the coronavirus pandemic, more than ever before, many health professionals are urging the flu vaccine for all Americans over the age of 6 months. They are worried that even a mild flu season could strain hospitals already coping with COVID.
But they also worry, despite warnings over a potential "twindemic," many won’t get vaccinated.
“Most people don’t have side effects from getting the flu vaccine. A lot of times they may get a mild reaction which some people confuse with the flu,” said Dr. Abi Olulade, MD with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in San Diego.
Dr. Olulade said flu vaccine misconceptions run rampant.
“[The] more people that get the flu vaccine, the less it spreads through the community and helps with our capacity to deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic," she said.
But the past three flu seasons, less than half of US adults received the flu vaccine with up to 61,000 people dying per year.
Still, the CDC recently announced an additional nine million adult doses of flu vaccine and another two million pediatric doses.
“If there’s ever a year that you need to get your flu vaccine, get your kids vaccinated, this is the year,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Health experts say it’s particularly important for high-risk groups like the elderly and pregnant women.
“They are in that category of people that are more susceptible to getting severely ill if they get the flu,” said Dr. Olulade.
As for her patients, she said many of them are enthusiastic about the flu shot, even calling in to request one.
“You know we all play a role in terms of reducing transmission rates of an infection in our community. So you are protecting your community if you get the flu shot,” Olulade said.
So when should you get it? Doctors say at the latest by Halloween so you’re ready when flu season peaks at the end of the year.