It’s coming up on that time of year where you should start thinking about getting your flu shot. Given that COVID-19 is ever-present, receiving the flu shot this year is paramount. The reason is that every year thousands of people go to hospitals because they’re sick with the flu. Now, add on top of that COVID-19 and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Hospitals will quickly become overwhelmed if they have to deal with the volume of patients that both diseases are expected to cause.
Since there currently isn’t a way to prevent being infected with the coronavirus, experts are pushing preventing what we can—the flu. Most people who receive the shot avoid the illness altogether, but if you get sick, it’s usually milder and you don’t need to seek treatment from a hospital. This lessens the burden and allows healthcare personnel to take care of those who need it the most. For those 65 and older, it’s recommended that you get the pneumonia vaccine as well since this can be a fatal complication of the flu.
Getting the flu shot is especially crucial in light of the updated model recently released by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Under the most likely scenario, which assumes current restrictions remain the same, the number of deaths from the virus is expected to reach 410,451 by January 1st. In the best-case scenario, an additional 100,000 deaths would occur over the next four months, for a total of 288,381. To achieve this, it would require near-universal mask use. Under a worst-case scenario, deaths could top 620,000 by the end of the year. This would involve mask usage staying at its current rates, but social distancing requirements continuing to be relaxed.
One method to help control the spread is more readily available testing. One Harvard scientist, Dr. Michael Mina, has an idea on how to accomplish this. It would involve using antigen tests at home daily. Since the results would be returned rapidly, it would help eliminate the current backlog in getting outcomes.
It’s important to note that these tests aren’t good at identifying low-level infections. Other experts also point to the logistical challenges of getting the required volume of tests to everyone. In addition, you would need to have people take the tests, which might prove to be difficult to convince them to do.