Blog by Mark Wolfe, Customer Account Representative, GrandView Pharmacy

As if the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t scary enough, the flu season is not far away. How severe will the flu season be as it converges with the COVID-19 outbreak? What can we do to prepare?

Dr. Benjamin Singer, a Northwestern Medicine pulmonologist who treats COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit, outlines the best defense against influenza, which are all the very same measures we have all been performing these past few months. The purpose of this paper is to help inform those who are at risk for any of these respiratory ailments who may or may not be fans of receiving an influenza shot each fall, and to help inform preparation strategies for the upcoming flu season.
Dr Singer outlines the following four factors that could determine the severity of the upcoming flu season:

  1. Transmission: Social distancing policies designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 are also effective against the flu. If COVID-19 cases begin to spike in the fall of 2020, re-tightening social distancing measures could help mitigate early spread of the flu to flatten the curves for both viruses. Handwashing: Be sure to wash your hand several times each day. Use a good soap and water; and be sure to wash for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Vaccination: As we await vaccine trials for COVID-19, we should plan to increase rates of vaccination against the flu, particularly among older adults who are more susceptible to both the flu and COVID-19.
  3. Co-infection: We need widespread availability of rapid diagnostics for COVID-19 and other respiratory pathogens because co-infection with another respiratory pathogen, including the flu, occurred in more than 20% of COVID-19-positive patients who presented with a respiratory viral syndrome early in the pandemic.
  4. Disparities: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that we must continually invigorate public health efforts aimed to limit viral spread, increase vaccination rates, deploy rapid diagnostics and expand other health care services for vulnerable populations, including communities of color, the poor and older adults.
    “Even in non-pandemic years, the flu and other causes of pneumonia represent the eighth-leading cause of death in the United States, and respiratory viruses are the most commonly identified pathogens among hospitalized patients with community-acquired pneumonia,” Singer said.
    1. Benjamin D. Singer. COVID-19 and the next influenza season. Science Advances, May 29, 2020:

There is some thought in the arena of Public Health that having people immunized against influenza has an important trickledown effect in health care facilities. Those might be…
First, health care workers are already burdened by flu cases so getting a flu shot, reduces the number of flu patients, thereby helping to “relieve pressures” in hospitals also treating patients with COVID-19 says Dr. Albert Ko, a professor and department chair at the Yale School of Public Health.

But there’s another reason a flu shot could improve the country’s response to the new outbreak: The U.S. is lagging behind other countries in testing for COVID-19. But how does that relate to the flu? If people get their flu shots, fewer people come down with the flu and come into clinics with nonspecific symptoms such as fever and cough, which overlap with symptoms of COVID-19. Having fewer flu patients will make it easier to find the patients with COVID-19, he said.

Higher vaccination rates would “make us much more efficient in detecting coronavirus,” cases, Ko told Live Science. Finding COVID-19 cases is still akin to picking a “needle out of a haystack,” but reducing flu cases can “decrease the haystack,” he added.

On the bright side, it is “incredibly rare,” to catch both the flu and COVID-19 at once, said Dr. Eric Cioe Peña, director of Global Health, Northwell Health in New York and an emergency room physician. “Usually if they have one, they don’t have the other.”

Therefore, stay safe and stay healthy. A flu shot this season may be recommended more for you now than ever before. GrandView Pharmacy does their part in offering a couple of options for having residents immunized against the flu. One, GrandView can offer “Flu Clinics” in assisted living facilities where a flu team comes to the facility on a selected date and time and immunizes those residents that request it. That makes it convenient for those AL and IL residents to get the shot. In most cases all you need to do is present your Medicare ‘Red, White & Blue’ card. For residents in skilled nursing facilities GrandView has been contacting all of their skilled facilities throughout the spring of 2020 to pre-order the flu vaccine that facilities think they’ll need this coming fall.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding flu vaccine, contact your GrandView Pharmacy Account Manager. For northern Indiana, Ohio and Michigan that would be Mark Wolfe, 317-450-5723. For central and southern Indiana please contact Charissa Widegren, 317-771-3649; or simply call GrandView Pharmacy at 1-866-827-7575.

About the Author

Click here to learn more about Mark and the rest of the GrandView team.