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This is the thing that will save us from a coronavirus disaster this fall

Published Aug 21st, 2020 4:48PM EDT
Flu vaccine
Image: Sherry Young/Adobe

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  • CDC Director Robert Redfield says that one of the most important things you can do this fall to protect yourself and others it to get a flu shot.
  • If enough people get the flu and COVID-19 infections spike again, Redfield warns that hospitals across the US could be overrun like in NYC earlier this year.
  • The CDC has purchased 9.3 million extra doses of the flu vaccine for this fall.

You’re probably tired of hearing it by now, but there are three things you can do to decrease your chances of catching or spreading the novel coronavirus: Wash your hands, social distance, and wear a mask. That’s what the government recommends, but as fall approaches, you can add one more tip to that list: Get a flu shot.

In a recent livestreamed conversation with the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield voiced his concerns about the flu season overlapping with the unending COVID-19 pandemic. If this turns out to be a particularly bad flu season, Redfield says hospitals across the US could end up being overrun like the ones in New York City were back in April.

“The biggest fear I have of course by COVID and flu at the same time, is that our hospital capacity could get strained,” Redfield told the JAMA EIC Howard Bauchner on Thursday. “And we need to stay vigilant to the mitigation steps right now, because, come the fall, if we have flu causing its problems and we have COVID causing its problems, and they build on each other, we could end up with another loss of significant life.”

Of course, one of the biggest differences between the flu and COVID-19 is that we have a vaccine for the flu, and if enough people get vaccinated this fall, it could alleviate a significant amount of the pressure that hospitals are likely to face. Redfield says that the CDC purchased 9.3 million additional doses of the flu vaccine this year, and the agency’s goal is to get “65% vaccine acceptance across the board.”

As ABC News notes, the CDC estimates that between 24,000 and 62,000 Americans died of the flu from October 1st, 2019 to April 4th, 2020. Meanwhile, COVID-19 has killed over 174,000 Americans since March.

“This fall and winter could be one of the most complicated public health times we have with the two coming at the same time,” Redfield said, referring to COVID-19 and the flu spreading in the United States simultaneously. “On the other hand, I’m an optimist that if the American public heeds the advice that we said about the face covering and the social distancing and the handwashing and being smart about crowds, this could be one of the best flu seasons we had, and particularly if they do one more thing. And that is to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence.”

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.