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Ahead Of Flu Season, Coronavirus Pandemic Collision, Health Experts Say Get Vaccinated

Medical worker wearing protective gloves prepares to administer a flu shot.
Ryan B. Stevenson/AZP Worldwide
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Adobe Stock
Health experts are urging people to get a flu shot ahead of the upcoming flu season.

Health experts urge people to get their flu shots immediately to avoid catching both the flu and the coronavirus. There are concerns those combined infections could lead to an overtaxing of the healthcare system.

"It's more important than ever. I would call out to stay current with vaccinations," CVS Regional Director Ahmed Velez says.

The drugstore chain is trying to make it easier for people to get a flu shot by allowing customers to make appointments.

"That is new. That started [in] September. We've never done this, and this is a proactive measure [to] really get in front of making sure that people are staying healthy and safe by getting their flu vaccine on time," Velez says.

Part of the push is to prevent people from developing severe side effects from the flu.

"The issue here is that with COVID-19 going on, we don't want to get further complications, and we're really reducing the risk that individuals with chronic disease may have if they contract COVID-19. That's the importance of getting your flu [shot] on time," Velez says.

Cindy Prins is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Florida. She says America didn't see much overlap of COVID-19 and the flu last spring.

"Right now, I don't know if we have a lot of data to know how bad it would be to be coinfected with COVID-19 and the flu. I mean, certainly, you would be dealing with two completely different viruses, so they may not necessarily respond to the same treatment or act the same way when they're in the body," Prins says.

She explains having both viruses out there raises concerns that more people could get sick, resulting in more hospitalizations:

"We know with COVID-19, we've worried a lot about how many people are getting admitted to the hospital. Are hospitals going to be at or even over capacity? Will they have the equipment and the personnel needed to really effectively take care of people with COVID-19?"

Prins says adding flu to the mix complicates things:

"Again, are we going to be able to handle the capacity of two fairly significant respiratory viruses at the same time?"

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's unclear how the flu season will impact the pandemic. The CDC's Ram Koppaka says getting a flu shot can flatten the curve of overall respiratory illnesses this fall.

"By getting the flu vaccination, individuals can help save scarce medical resources that protect themselves. It protects their families. It protects their communities and those resources that can be saved if individuals get the flu vaccine can be used in the fight against COVID-19," Koppaka says.

Koppaka recommends getting a flu shot by the end of October. Velez, with CVS, says to get it immediately.

CVS and Walgreens are offering flu shots via walk-in or appointment. People can schedule their vaccination by going to the drug stores' website.