WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — This year’s flu season is almost here, and health experts fear a double pandemic of flu and COVID-19 could overwhelm U.S. hospitals, so they’re urging everyone to get a flu shot.
While there is an enormous supply of flu vaccine available, the challenge is convincing people to take it.
The Centers for Disease Control said the U.S. will have around 200 million doses of flu vaccine available this year.
Now, health officials have to convince as many people as possible to get a flu shot.
“It’s certainly safe, and it’s pretty effective,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association.
He said, usually, only about 40-45 percent of Americans get a flu shot.
“And if we can get that into the 70 percent range, that would do a whole lot,” Benjamin said.
Just this week, parents in Massachusetts protested against mandatory flu shots for students.
It’s one example of the challenges health officials face this year, as they combat the flu and COVID-19.
“Having really two big epidemics that have similar symptoms, as well as the way it would tax the health system, would be a real problem,” Benjamin said.
To avoid that worst-case scenario, health officials are pleading with everyone who can to get a flu shot.
“There’s a big, national effort to educate people about getting the influenza shot,” Benjamin said.
Television and internet ads are part of that education effort.
The CDC also gave out $140 million to help states with their vaccine campaigns and recommends everyone keep up with masks, hand washing, and social distancing.
The CDC also purchased almost 10 million doses of flu vaccine for uninsured adults, an increase from the 500,000 doses it usually buys for that group.