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Could the flu make a comeback this year?

Healthcare experts are urging everyone to get their flu vaccines in addition to their COVID-19 boosters to prevent a crush of patients at the hospital

Healthcare experts across Pennsylvania are urging people to get their flu vaccines in addition to the COVID-19 boosters in order to prevent a surge of patients at hospitals this winter. 

"We don't want to forget before COVID that flu was the main reason people were hospitalized in the wintertime," said Dr. Chet Patel of Lititz Apothecary.

Dr. Patel's doors were packed full of customers Friday coming in for both flu shots, boosters, and even the shingles vaccine. He said on a typical day his pharmacy can administer more than 30 flu vaccines alone. The number of total vaccines the pharmacy administers daily can reach over 60. 

"We could do anywhere between 20-30 boosters a day as well so combined you add a couple shingles, etc, you could do anywhere between 60-65 shots a day," he said.

How effective is the flu shot this year? How worried are hospitals about a high flu season hitting as COVID-19 cases rise? Listen to UPMC infectious disease expert, Dr. John Goldman explain: 

Doctors like UPMC infectious disease specialist Dr. John Goldman are encouraging people to get both the flu vaccine and the booster when it is available. He warned a bad flu season combined with high COVID-19 cases could put a strain on hospitals. Dr. Goldman said hospitals like UPMC are already making contingency plans to prepare for the winter ahead in case of a surge.

The CDC reports that flu cases were unusually low last season likely due to health measures such as masking, social distancing, and a decrease in travel. But this season, there are are fewer safety restrictions. 

"If we have flu and COVID that clearly will strain all hospitals resources," said Dr. Goldman.

Dr. Goldman believes this years flu shot will still be effective. However, he did note the last of a flu season last year may cause implications this year.

"The real worry is that with no flu circulating people weren't exposed and people didn't get a boost to their immune system. So the worry is we're all doing less masking and social distancing and if we have less masking and social distancing and a little bit less than the preexisting immunity then there's the potential to have a bad flu season," said Dr. Goldman. "I'm hoping that the masking we're still doing counteracts the effects of possibly a little less immunity but that's just a hope. We don't have good data for that."