Health Experts Urge Public to Roll Up Their Sleeves, as ‘Twindemic' Looms

Connecticut residents are urged to get the flu vaccine this year, to reduce the pressure on the health care system should another wave of COVID-19 hit.

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Healther Camilleri isn’t wasting anytime protecting herself this flu season.

“Already got it. Today. Left arm.  I just took the band-aid off,” the Farmington woman said on Friday. “I figured I might as well get it before they run out.”

Drug stores and doctors offices are already offering the shot but not everyone is putting it on their to do list just yet.

“Usually I’ve never gotten it in September we usually end up getting it around the October timeframe,” said Jigna Desai of Cheshire.

“Will we need a second flu shot is my question,” asked Melanie Schneider of Plainville.

“It’s not too soon,” said physician assistant for ProHealth Physicians, Jennifer Clark-Connor. "However I would recommend people do wait until at least October if you can.”

Clark-Connor pointed out that the flu season can last until May but your protection from it may not.

“That’s when you’re going to get the most bang for your buck, the first six months, however the CDC does say that it can last for upwards of a year,” she said.

The CDC could issue a re-vaccination order in the spring.

Although the flu shot does not prevent COVID-19, which is caused by a different virus, health experts say it’s more important than ever before to get vaccinated for the flu to rule out a case of the coronavirus.

“If we can prevent influenza and headaches, sore throat, fever, cough, that’s one less episode that you have to get tested for COVID,” said Dr. Albert Ko, chair of Infections Diseases for the Yale School of Medicine.

Ko helped lead Connecticut’s early response to the pandemic.

“What we don’t want to happen is to have an epidemic of COVID on top of what we normally see with influenza,” he explained.

As fall approaches, scientists are watching for the possibility of a “twindemic” of influenza and coronavirus. 

"I think we're all afraid of a second wave,” said Dr. Thomas Balcezak, chief medical officer at Yale New Haven Health.

A second wave of COVID-19 colliding with cold and flu season could be catastrophic.

It’s enough to convince Melanie Schneider, who doesn’t always get her flu shot, to roll up her sleeve this year.

“I want to be able to rule out other issues, so that if I do become positive for Covid I know that that’s what it is,” she said.  "I'm pretty even-keeled but this is definitely worrying."

However, that health emergency doesn't have to become our reality.

"I think that we are actually going to be in a better place this year as far as the protection against influenza because everybody is wearing masks,” said Clark-Connor.

That along with continued social distancing and good hand hygiene could be key to keeping the COVID curve flat and the flu from reaching pandemic proportions.

“If we’re able to collectively continue to do the good work that we’ve all been doing, I think we’ll be able to dodge a second wave. Our fate is in the hands of the public,” said Balcezak.

"If you do get the flu it will help to minimize how it affects you and hopefully keep you out of the hospital to preserve our healthcare resources for those who unfortunately will end up with COVID," added Clark-Connor.

While the flu shot is already in some doctors offices and drug stores Dr. Thomas Balcezak believes a COVID vaccine isn't far behind.

"I think we're going to see a vaccine soon, I'd say before or around the first of the year,” said Balcezak.

He pointed out that there are more than 100 COVID vaccines in development and nearly 40 that have reached human trials. 

Will the public be willing get the vaccine?

"I would love to see one, but I don't want it to be rushed,” said Camilleri.

Developers working against the clock to get the virus under control are also fighting the public's vaccine-hesitancy.  In a Gallup Poll, a third of Americans said they won't take the COVID vaccine when it's approved.

“We need to make sure that these trials are conducted carefully, that the vaccines are safe, and then we need to convince the public to get the vaccine when it’s available so that we can stomp out this virus," said Balcezak.

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