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Doctor talks COVID-19 vaccine, second wave, flu season

As flu season looms, public health officials are taking the opportunity to remind us why this year a flu shot is more important than ever before.

Posted: Oct 12, 2020 6:48 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- As flu season looms, public health officials are taking the opportunity to remind us why this year a flu shot is more important than ever before. 

The compounding effects of both coronavirus and the flu have the power to inundate our hospitals, something that would create incredible strrain, according to Dr. Patrick Luedtke, the senior health director for Lane County Public Health.

"Imagine if people just dawdle and dawdle and don't get their flu vaccine and January comes along and now we have COVID vaccine available and flu vaccine available and we don't have enough needles to do both on the same day, we don't have enough time, we don't have enough nurses or enough resources for people to get two vaccines," Luedtke said. "We need to get people vaccinated for flu now."

Last year, anywhere from 24,000 to 62,000 Americans died of the flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the same people who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 are at risk for flu complications. Those at high risk include people older than 65 and those with health complications like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.

He also talked about the possibility of a second wave saying that a true epidemiological second wave needs two things: 

  • Two incubation cycles with no cases (28 days for coronavirus)
  • Change or mutation in the virus

Luedtke says that it is likely the term "second wave" was used too loosely in regards to this virus and that public health officials say what will happen most likely is us hitting our peak in late fall or early winter.

"When the bad weather comes here on the western side of Oregon, people stay inside more and they share more air and this is a respiratorily spread virus so the risk clearly goes up," said Luedtke.

According to the CDC forecast map for the virus, we'll continue to see the number of cases we've been seeing for the last few weeks at least for the next few weeks.

Luedtke said the importance of getting a flu shot now means not inundating hospitals later when people are also trying to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

He said much like the mask shortage we saw earlier this year, that could happen again if people don't plan ahead.

One overlooked consequence of high coronavirus numbers especially as they relate to hospitalizations are that elected procedures go out the door, Luedtke said.

"Elective surgeries disappear when the hospital is full or when the hospital is a risky space, and that's a real concern because heart attacks don't stop, strokes don't stop, and car accidents don't stop," he said.

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