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California health leaders urge residents get a flu shot now

"The thought of getting COVID and influenza together, I think I honestly don’t know if somebody would be able to survive that."

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Health officials are worried the upcoming flu season could be made exponentially worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom referenced this worry Monday during a press conference.

“We could potentially experience what some refer to as a ‘Twindemic,’ flu and COVID overwhelming ICUs and hospitals,” said Newsom. “We want to avoid that.”

Newsom said the solution is getting the flu vaccine.

“You can help aid and advance that by getting a flu shot,” he said.

The co-infection of flu and COVID is concerning those in healthcare like Dr. Ranjani Kalyan, an infectious disease specialist with Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

“We’re really emphasizing the need for flu vaccination because that is what we have now,” said Dr. Kalyan. “We do not have the COVID vaccine but we do have flu vaccine and flu treatment.”

Dr. Vanessa Walker is a pulmonologist with Sutter Roseville Medical Center. She has seen the difference in patients who have and haven’t had the flu vaccine.

“What I see are the patients who actually get influenza and come into the intensive care unit doing very poorly, and what I have noticed is that people who get the flu vaccine have better course,” explained Dr. Walker. “So even if you do get the flu with the vaccine, you’re going to have a little bit better chance of not getting so severely sick than if you didn’t get it at all.”

Dr. Kalyan said in the pandemic, the flu vaccine could help doctors differentiate between COVID and the flu.

“At least reducing the duration of illness or the severity of illness will at least help us differentiate flu versus COVID,” said Dr. Kalyan. “Because really, that’s really what we’re trying to minimize, is to reduce the burden of flu and COVID together in this season.”

Otherwise, as Dr. Walker emphasized, consequences could be dire.

“Looking at what COVID does to the lungs, in my opinion, the thought of getting COVID and influenza together, I think I honestly don’t know if somebody would be able to survive that, with how much inflammation occurs in the body when you have both COVID and influenza,” said Dr. Walker.

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