BOSTON — With flu season fast approaching, an infectious disease doctor in Boston is urging people to get their flu shot.
Dr. Shira Doron, Tufts Medical Center’s epidemiologist, told Boston 25 News the biggest concern about flu season and the coronavirus pandemic coinciding is doctors don’t have a good way to tell just by looking at a patient if they have the flu, COVID-19 or another respiratory illness.
“They’re very similar,” Doron said. “It can be really hard to tell the difference.”
She said the flu and COVID-19 share common symptoms like a high fever, body aches and a cough.
“We have to take all the precautions as if they have COVID, every time somebody comes in with a respiratory virus,” Doron said.
She fears this flu season could lead to hospitals becoming more easily overwhelmed.
“We sometimes struggle to keep ICU beds available in a bad flu season, so if we were to have a bad flu season and COVID surging on top of that, we would be in big trouble,” Doron said.
She said one thing that gives her hope is our recent change of habits. She said social distancing, wearing a mask and handwashing not only protect us from COVID-19, but also help fend off the flu.
“What we did see at the end of the last flu season is that as soon as we started mask-wearing and distancing, the flu almost disappeared,” Doron said.
She said getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever.
“If you get the flu and COVID at the same time, you could be even more sick,” said Doron. “We do know co-infections happened in the last respiratory season with COVID.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone age six months and older get a flu shot. However, doctors have differing opinions on the best month to get one. Some believe patients who get vaccinated in August could be more likely to get the flu later in the flu season.
“The efficacy of the vaccine might wane over time, and if you get it early, you might be more susceptible at the end of the season,” Doron explained.
She said she recommends her patients get a flu shot as soon as they’re available.
“You could have an early season that really ramps up fast and then it would be too late for you to get it,” Doron said. “There could be vaccine shortages, which we have seen in some years.”
The CDC estimates manufacturers will provide as many as 194-198 million doses of flu vaccine this season, which is more than record-breaking 175 million doses they provided last season.
Where to get a flu shot?
CVS: Flu shots are now available at all CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic locations. Patients may schedule an immunization appointment with a MinuteClinic provider at MinuteClinic.com or check the website to see if walk-in appointments are available in their area. Walk-in appointments are also welcome at CVS Pharmacy throughout flu season. Starting in September, CVS Pharmacy patients will be able to make vaccination appointments with a pharmacist by visiting CVS.com, the CVS app or by texting FLU to 287898. They also will be able to complete a digital intake form prior to their visit to limit in-person contact at the time of vaccination.
Walgreens: Walgreens is now offering flu shots daily at all of its nearly 9,100 pharmacies with additional safety measures in place. Patients can get their flu shots by walk-in or schedule an appointment via Walgreens Find Care through the Walgreens app or online during pharmacy hours, including evenings, overnights at 24-hour pharmacy locations, weekends and holidays. Patients can complete their paperwork online and bring it with them to reduce the amount of time they’re at the pharmacy.
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