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From One Pandemic to Another: The Importance of Flu and COVID-19 Vaccination

Posted on November 2, 2021
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During the last pandemic, Henry Lin, MD, lost his child Trevor to H1N1 influenza on November 2, 2009. He died more than 10 years before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

In October 2009, Dr. Lin could not get Trevor or his siblings vaccinated against H1N1 influenza because the vaccine was not yet available to families in his community. Now, as many of us fortunate survivors live through another year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the second seasonal flu season during the pandemic, he urges both flu and COVID-19 vaccination. Flu vaccination is especially important as there is already a significant rate increase of flu this season.

Data show that patients are most likely to trust their healthcare provider’s recommendations to get vaccinated. In the US, most healthcare providers are indeed vaccinated against flu and COVID-19. For example, 96% of doctors are vaccinated against COVID-19 and 98% got the flu vaccine during the 2019-2020 season. For nurses, over 88% are vaccinated against COVID-19 and 92% of nurses were vaccinated against flu.

But 12 years later, even when both flu & COVID vaccines are readily available, Americans overall are still not getting vaccinated at very high rates. During the past flu season, 52.1% of all people eligible in the U.S. got a flu vaccine. For COVID-19, only 58% of all people eligible in the U.S. have received their full dose.

“The current COVID pandemic may have had a different outcome if we had really taken to heart the recurrent lessons of pandemics, such as the more recent one of the swine flu from the 2008-09 season,” says Dr. Lin. “Coronavirus and influenza are similar in their ability to evolve. Like all viruses, they mutate to survive. The more frequently these viruses mutate, the harder it is to reach herd immunity with a single formulation in a vaccine. That’s why earlier mass vaccinations might have achieved herd immunity, potentially preventing highly infectious variants like Delta from developing.”

Trevor would have turned 19 on October 18 had the swine flu vaccine been available earlier in the season where he lived. Please seriously consider both your annual flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine to protect you and your family. New data supports safety in the co-administration of both vaccines on the same day.

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