With flu season right around the corner, health professionals urge flu shots to avoid possible ‘twindemic’

Free flu clinic set for Wednesday in the City of Richmond
Updated: Nov. 17, 2020 at 3:31 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The coronavirus surge is adding new urgency towards preventing a possible “twindemic," with flu cases expected to ramp up in just a few short weeks. Doctors are pleading with everyone to get the flu shot to help prevent hospitals from being overrun by both flu and COVID patients this winter.

There will be a flu clinic at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in the City of Richmond from 1-4 p.m. Wednesday for neighbors in Richmond and Henrico County. It is completely free and health professionals say getting your shot could be a massive help.

“We’re seeing a rise in cases of COVID and we’d like to avoid also having a surge of flu cases at the same time,” said Dr. Melissa Aquilo, Medical Director, Patient First in Mechanicsville.

Back in September, Dr. Aquilo said flu vaccination requests were up by nearly 400%, but that has changed.

“We are at a rate similar to what we’ve seen the past two years. We had an initial rush for the flu vaccine and that really has died down quite a bit,” said Dr. Aquilo.

However, Dr. Danny Avula, Richmond-Henrico Health Director, says he’s seeing an increase in requests for the vaccine.

“The good news is that it looks to be somewhere between 20 to 30% up from last year and so we hope that trend continues in that people are protected from the flu and hopefully steer clear of COVID as well,” said Dr. Avula.

While the flu vaccine in any given year is only 40-60% effective, that number can mean a big difference for the health system.

“The goal is to really prevent as much hospitalization as possible with the flu because we need to preserve the capacity of the health system. If the full brunt of patients with the flu and COVID were to happen at the same time, that could really put a strain on our health system. So we need to avoid that we need to make sure that hospital beds are available,” said Dr. Avula.

As for the number of cases of the flu, Patient First says their entire system has only seen a few. Flu season usually starts in December. But that doesn’t mean wait for your flu shot, as it can take a couple of weeks to be effective.

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