SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading around the globe, health experts say this year’s flu season is going to be challenging. With the coexistence of these two diseases within communities, officials say getting a flu shot is critical.
“The best way to keep our families and ourselves safe is to get the flu vaccine while COVID-19 is still going on in the community,” said Scott Benson.
Benson is an infectious disease trained physician at the University of Utah and an associate professor in the division of public health.
He told ABC4 News that a flu shot will also decrease burdens on Utah’s hospitals.
“If we can avoid individuals going to the hospital to require treatment for flu, we diminish their exposure to COVID-infected patients that are in the hospital, we diminish the need for health care providers to take care of influenza patients which could be preventable, and we diminish the need for personal protective equipment, which is in high demand in taking care of COVID patients.”
Even if you aren’t coming into contact with anyone else in your daily life, experts generally advise leaving your bubble to get a flu shot.
“It may seem like a contradiction that we say go out during COVID to get the vaccine. But the exposure time to other people while getting the vaccine is so short, that your risk is really minimal,” Benson explained.
The associate professor does expect a surge in people getting a vaccine this year, but adds, there is increased production of the flu vaccine, so there should be enough supplies for everyone.
“We do have test kits that do test for both influenza and for COVID-19 simultaneously. So someone that comes in with signs or symptoms consistent with an upper respiratory infection will likely get a test that considers both influenza and COVID-19 at the same time.”
Benson also recommends people waiting until October to get the flu shot because flu season typically lasts about six months.
“The vaccine’s greatest strength is about six months even though the immunity lasts a bit longer, and so getting it in at the end of September, beginning of October gives you coverage through the biggest peak of the influenza season.”