Medical experts urge flu shots during pandemic and influenza season


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Doctors and medical groups said the flu shot can help prevent hospitals and clinics from getting overwhelmed. It can also help prevent people from getting critically sick this flu season.

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A case of a person getting sick with the flu and COVID-19 was already reported in California. Health officials in Hawaii have been sounding the alarm about these two illnesses simultaneously spreading.

Healthcare Association of Hawaii President and CEO Hilton Raethel said this is the reason why there is an urgency for people to get the flu shot this year.

“That just means that the severity of the illness for these individuals could be much higher,” Raethel said. “Because your body again is fighting two diseases and not just one at the same time.”  

He said it is too early to have data on 2020 vaccinations but if last year’s numbers are an indication, less than half of residents got their flu shots.

Raethel said, “If you look at the numbers, we did not have very good flu statistics. The latest numbers we have is less than 30% of our general population would get flu vaccines.”  

People who are 65 years or older trend higher in getting the vaccine with about half of the age group bracket receiving a flu shot.

Raethel said the flu season in Hawaii usually starts late in December compared to August on the mainland.

The health department’s influenza lab surveillance resulted in a 0.7% positivity rate on the second week of October. COVID-19 has a 4.7% positivity rate the following week.

Raethel said, “What we’re seeing with COVID is that there are a number of long term implications from COVID-19 that we’re only beginning to understand.” 

Health officials said this year’s flu shot means that there’s a better fighting chance for a person’s immune system, and with rising COVID-19 cases in other states, there are concerns of another wave reaching the islands.

“There’s a lag of one to two months between what happens on the mainland and what is happening in Hawaii. And that’s true for the flu, it’s happened every year for many years,” Raethel said. “It’s happening for the first two waves of COVID-19 and that’s one of the reasons again why we are expecting a third wave.”  

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