County health officer Garold Minns, MD, has always advocated that people get flu shots, but this year his message is even more dire and he’s asking physicians to step up their efforts to get their patients vaccinated.
“Of all the years, this is the year we really ought to be campaigning to have our patients take the flu shot,” Minns said. “I know we’ll never get to 100%, but I think it’s going to be a more complicated year. And we do have the vaccine for it.”
COVID-19 cases are rising throughout Sedgwick County, the state and much of the country, and many health experts fear cases will continue to surge as we approach the fall and winter – right into flu season.
As of yet, there is no vaccine for COVID-19, although many companies are working around the clock to establish one and move to production. Because many symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 may overlap, testing and treatment could become even more complex, Minns said.
“If you hear Anthony Fauci say on his most optimistic days that’s he’s hopeful we’ll have a vaccine for COVID, he’s saying maybe December,” Minns said. “Even so, we may not have widespread availability until 2021, possibly spring or late in the winter.”
So far, coronavirus has resulted in more than 3.2 million confirmed cases and 134,572 deaths in the U.S. as of July 12, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Sedgwick County, health officials have recorded 2,203 cases and 28 deaths.
Those numbers – and the associated strain on hospitals and health care resources – most likely will be compounded by the flu, Minns said. CDC preliminary estimates for the 2019-20 flu season show that up to 56 million Americans exhibited flu or flu-like illnesses and accounted for up to 740,000 hospitalizations and up to 62,000 deaths.
Residents who get vaccinated lower their chances of getting influenza – or at least increase their chances of acquiring a milder case of it should they become infected.
“That’s why I’m urging physicians and the Medical Society to help out with messaging to patients,” Minns said. “Start a campaign early. Contact patients and encourage like we never have before. Let’s get all the doctors on board and start preaching.”
Public health officer Garold Minns, MD, left, fears the upcoming influenza season will complicate COVID-19 testing and response and encourages physicians to promote the flu vaccine to their patients.