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Flu shots in high demand as COVID-19 makes them even more important this year

Chances are if you’ve been to the grocery store or drugstore lately, you’ve seen signs pushing for everyone to get a flu shot — particularly because of COVID-19.

From fevers and chills to fatigue and body aches, “flu is pretty miserable,” said T.J. DePaola, the pharmacist in charge at Cypress Pharmacy.

That’s why he encourages his patients to get the flu shot. But this year, that’s not necessary.

“This year is probably the highest that we’ve ever seen – there’s much more demand,” DePaola said.

“Get the flu shot for yourself, get the flu shot for everyone around you because it’s really that important,” said Dr. Paul Biddinger with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

It’s important because health care systems are already taxed dealing with COVID-19.

“The less influenza we have, the safer it is for the most vulnerable among us,” Biddinger said, “and I think that argument is even stronger with COVID.”

New research out of England also finds patients who catch both the coronavirus and the flu are about two times more likely to die than those with only COVID-19 infections.

“About half of people who had both infections essentially passed away,” explained Dr. Kartik Cherabuddi with the University of Florida Health.

But the push to get more people vaccinated against the flu, and earlier in the season, is having an unintended consequence.

“The problem with that is the flu shots were pre-booked prior to COVID. So right now, you’re starting to run into somewhat of a shortage of the flu shots right now,” DePaola said.

“We’ve worked with industry. Industry is pulsing up the amount of vaccine they’re going to make available. So probably over close to 100 million doses this year. 190 million doses,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

In our area, NCH says the demand for flu shots “appears to be steady” however, “one thing different that we are seeing is that people are requesting the flu shot earlier as compared to previous years.”

As for Lee Health, they say they haven’t had an issue or seen anything out of the ordinary.

Another concern — whether getting a shot early will mean it wears off before flu season ends.

“It’s far, far better to get a flu shot anywhere early in this flu season rather than waiting. We never know exactly when the flu is going to emerge robustly,” Biddinger said.

“Get it relatively early, because in trying to predict the sweet spot, you might miss out on its efficacy if you start seeing cases around you,” Cherabuddi said.

Most flu shots are 100% covered by insurance. If you don’t have insurances, it costs around $40.

The CDC also bought 10,000,000 doses for uninsured adults to help make sure everyone who wants one can get the flu shot.

For more information about the flu shot supply, click here.

To read the study on patients who had both the flu and COVID-19, click here.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
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