Joint COVID-19, flu vaccine clinics opening across US

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While the COVID-19 delta variant continues to fuel outbreaks across the U.S., there is still uncertainty as to what this year's flu season will bring. To bolster prevention efforts, one-stop clinics offering shots for both illnesses have started to emerge, CNN reported Sept. 21. 

The latest COVID-19 surge has pushed Idaho to activate crisis standards of care for hospitals and health systems statewide. Helena, Mont.-based St. Peter's Health and Anchorage-based Providence Alaska Medical Center have had to do the same, and health officials hope dual vaccine clinics will help prevent a further strain on the country's health system. 

"This is a big area of concern for our health departments who remain worried about the conflation of the flu with the pandemic again — and whether we should be doing flu and vaccine clinics together to try to get people protected as much as possible," Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, and Lumberton, N.C.-based Robeson Community College are among places that have recently opened joint vaccine clinics. 

"If somebody comes in wanting the flu vaccine and they haven't had a COVID-19 vaccine then we can encourage them to get both, or vice-versa," said Robert Hopkins, MD, chief of internal medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. "If they come in wanting the COVID vaccine and they haven't had the flu vaccine and we can encourage them to do both, we potentially are going to have a greater impact on both disease prevention efforts," Dr. Hopkins, who is also chair of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, told CNN

Predictions on what this year's flu season will look live have varied. Last year, influenza activity was minimal largely due to COVID-19 prevention measures such as mask wearing, with some studies anticipating a "large compensatory" flu season this year. 

The American College of Emergency Physicians also warned of "early signs" that this year's flu season could be severe in a Sept. 16 statement

Infectious disease experts also look to what's happening in the southern hemisphere as an indicator of what the flu season could look like in the U.S. So far, activity has been minimal there, CNN reports. 

"I think many of us are concerned about the fact we didn't see much flu last year. Are we going to see convergence of a pandemic plus flu season at the same time, when we're already seeing a crunch in our healthcare facilities?" Dr. Hopkins said. 

The CDC has previously said the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine can be administered simultaneously. 

New Mexico, Idaho and Georgia reported moderate flu activity for the week ending Sept. 11, according to the CDC's latest FluView report. The rest of the states reported low or minimal activity. 

 

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