As previously reported by The Inquisitr, health officials are concerned that this winter will bring a so-called "twindemic" of both COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and the regular seasonal flu. Both illnesses are spread by similar mechanisms -- respiratory droplets -- and during the winter months, people spend more time indoors, potentially exposing each other to pathogens. Authorities fear that, as such, COVID-19 cases will surge at the same time that influenza cases start spiking as well.
Dr. Atul Nakhasi, policy adviser for the L.A. County Department of Health Services, wrote in an op-ed that Americans should get vaccinated against the flu.
To be clear, the influenza vaccine will not protect against the coronavirus, and in fact, an inoculation against that pathogen is likely months away. However, Dr. Nakhasi laid out how getting vaccinated against the flu can actually help when it comes to the coronavirus.
"As most doctors will tell you, hospitals approach peak capacity every year during flu season. I know this because I'm one of those doctors. What would have happened if flu season took place during this summer's COVID surge?" he asked rhetorically.
In other words, the more people who get vaccinated against the flu, the fewer people there will be inside hospitals with severe symptoms. Those limited resources can be put to use for the people sick with COVID-19.
"The U.S. health care system [is] a finite system, with a defined number of beds, ventilators, nurses and doctors," he wrote.
Nakhasi also gave examples of just how thinly-stretched the healthcare apparatus in some locations can be. Los Angeles County, California and Houston, Texas, came perilously close to running out of intensive care unit beds this summer, while Montgomery, Alabama, did run out.
"The moment any of these precious resources become scarce, deaths could spiral out of control," he noted.
However, if 5 percent more Americans get immunized against the flu this year compared to last year, it could reduce the number of infected people by close to half a million -- many of whom might eventually be sick enough that they require treatment in a hospital.
"The flu shot [is] our best chance against the nightmarish 'worst fall' in public health history... This is the most important flu shot of the century," he said.