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Fears of a Twindemic: Don’t Delay Flu and COVID-19 Vaccinations
Last year, Families Fighting Flu and health officials warned of a “twindemic” of COVID-19 and flu. The fear was that as cases of COVID-19 continued to rise, and we were awaiting a COVID-19 vaccine, flu would also spread and there wouldn’t be enough hospital beds, ICU beds, ECMO machines, or ventilators.
Thankfully, that never happened. The United States saw record-setting flu vaccination rates, as well as increased social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand washing. The combination of these actions led to only 2,038 cases of influenza. For reference, we normally see anywhere from 9 to 45 MILLION cases of flu per season.
What will happen for 2021-2022?
This year could be different because we have two life-saving vaccines for flu and COVID-19. Sadly, US vaccination rates for COVID-19 are low – just over 50% of the population has received their full dose. Although vaccination rates continue to grow, progress is uneven from state to state. And, we are still awaiting authorization of COVID-19 vaccination for children under 12 years of age.
Flu vaccination rates are similar to those for COVID-19 – last season we saw the highest vaccination rate of all time, but that was still only estimated at 55% for all adults and 58% for all children. Flu vaccination rates also vary greatly by race/ethnicity.
These gaps in vaccination rates leave people vulnerable to getting and spreading flu and COVID-19. While we experienced a dip in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations at the beginning of the summer, hospitals are filling up with sick children and adults who need COVID-19 treatment. If and when flu starts to spread, there may not be space to treat those patients too.
Protect Yourself: Get Vaccinated & Mask Up
The best way to keep everyone out of the hospital and get back to our normal lives is to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu. We’ve already seen what happens when one virus takes over – and we don’t need to add flu to the mix.
There is also evidence that masks have worked to prevent flu in the past. Even before COVID-19, healthcare workers used masks during flu season to keep themselves healthy. Masks are a helpful tool to prevent viral particles from spreading when people breathe, talk, sneeze, and cough.