Just as New Yorkers have been lining up for COVID-19 tests, doctors say they've also been getting flu shots at a higher rate, and earlier in the season, than in years past.
That follows advice from the Centers for Disease Control, which has been warning of the potential for a "twindemic" this fall — with large surges of both the coronavirus and the flu. They've been recommending the flu vaccine as a way to ease burdens on health care providers, who could be overburdened with COVID cases once again in the coming weeks and months.
"There's no question the more people would live to have the (flu) vaccine," said Dr. Ramon Tallaj, the Board Chairman of SOMOS Community Care, a network of health care providers throughout the city. "We're seeing an increase of people coming to practices to get the vaccine, which is good because it takes time for the vaccine to work in your body."
But with more people getting flu shots this year, is there a chance for a shortage? Most doctors don't believe, so, because they said they took precautions before the rush.
"We ordered about 15-20 percent higher than last year," said SOMOS President Dr. Henry Chen. "This is the best time to get the vaccine because the vaccine needs at least a month to produce the antibody."
However, there are some reports of other doctors' offices running low after not anticipating the increased demand. Tallaj said that anyone who runs into that issue with their doctor can wait for a restock, unless they are at high risk — like elderly people or those with certain diseases.
Experts also believe that this year will likely be a milder flu season. That's not only because of the spike in flu shots administered, but also because of the precautions people are already taking for COVID — wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing. All those actions also work to prevent contracting the flu.
Some experts also believe getting the flu vaccine will help the body's immune system fight other diseases, like COVID-19.