Walking the halls of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, Dr. Mothusi Chilume knows his clinic is likely experiencing the calm before the coming winter surge of flu and COVID-19 cases. That is why this doctor and others across the country are urging Americans to get both vaccines now in an effort to take some pressure off an already strained emergency healthcare system.
Dr. Chilume oversees family medicine at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, a low-income nonprofit that is starting to work overtime to make sure the most vulnerable get their flu shot this year.
"The flu actually kills people, and so, we don’t want to lose sight of that going into the winter," Dr. Chilume said.
One of the biggest reasons health officials are urging Americans to get their flu shot this year in particular is hospital capacity. With ICUs already at their breaking point, a surge of flu cases could be catastrophic for the healthcare system.
"Healthcare workers are really tired. This has been exhausting for people who work in healthcare; it’s hard to keep going with no light at the end of the tunnel," Dr. Chilume added.
With flu season and a COVID surge about to collide, many Americans might be feeling a bit overwhelmed when it comes to vaccines. So, we posed a few questions to Kristen Nichols, an infectious disease pharmacist with Wolters Kluwer.
"The CDC does recommend that it’s okay to get both vaccines on the same day," Nichols said.
Nichols and other health officials want people to know that it is safe to get the flu vaccine and the COVID vaccine or booster at the same time. If you do get both shots on the same arm, spread them an inch apart--although Kristen Nichols recommends using different arms for each shot, just to reduce some soreness.
"If I was nervous about getting both vaccines and had to get one, I would get COVID first given that the delta variant is circulating and can be quite deadly," she added.
What if you do get sick this fall or winter?
Most doctor's offices will simultaneously be testing patients for the flu and COVID to determine the right course of treatment.
"We really want to do that initial COVID test to make sure you’re not spreading COVID," Nichols added.
With so many more Americans moving around this fall the risk of getting sick is high, which is why doctors want as many shots in arms as possible.