Why doctors want you to get both flu and COVID shots

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 4:04 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - Flu season is here and doctors want you to get your flu shot.

With elevated COVID case counts and no mask mandate in place, health officials are concerned about what flu season could mean for a health care system that is already stretched thin.

“We are already extremely stressed staffing-wise,” said Dr. Wouter Rietsema, an infectious disease specialist at the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital.

Rietsema gives a glimpse of the current staffing status inside the hospital.

“Our problem with beds is not physical; we have plenty of beds. What we don’t have is enough staff to staff as many beds as we need,” Rietsema explained.

He says this is an issue across the North Country.

“Some hospitals will be closing services, some hospitals will be limiting services. We may be in that situation,” Rietsema said.

On top of still being in a global pandemic, flu season has begun and spans into spring.

“Anyone who doesn’t get the COVID vaccine or the flu vaccine are at greater risk of being hospitalized for both of those illnesses and that may overwhelm our hospital system,” said Dr. Ashley Bernotas of the Hudson Headwaters Health Network.

It’s expected cases will be higher this year than last because there are no state mask mandates.

“The reason why we didn’t have as many flu cases last year was because people were staying away, washing their hands and wearing their masks,” Bernotas said.

Flu symptoms and COVID symptoms are a page out of the same book-- runny nose, coughing, body aches-- and if you have symptoms, it’s best to make an appointment to get them checked out. Doctors can test you for both viruses on the spot.

“In the past, we would just suspect it was the flu and either treat or not treat depending on the time of your symptoms. But now with COVID being so rampant, we are definitely testing,” Bernotas said.

The best way to protect yourself from both viruses is to mask up when in public settings and to get you shots. Doctors are encouraging it for anyone 12 and up who has not done so already.

“Should just get them at the same time at your doctor’s visit,” Bernotas said.

Bernotas suggests you get your flu shot before the end of October.

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