‘It could be a catastrophe’: Local doctor talks importance of flu shots during pandemic

(David Goldman | AP Photo/David Goldman)
Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 6:46 PM EDT
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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - As the pandemic surges, doctors are worried about the upcoming flu season colliding with COVID-19.

“If we’re going to have a severe flu season it’s going to be catastrophe for all of us. So you have the flu on top of COVID so we’re going to use the ventilators, we’re going to use the rooms in the hospital, we’re going to affect and jeopardize the healthcare system sustainability,” said Dr. Fadi Al Akhrass - Pikeville Medical Center director for infectious diseases.

Dr. Al Akhrass says the flu vaccine is more important this year than ever before.

“It’s better to at least alleviate one problem and deal with the other problem,” said Dr. Al Akhrass.

He says it is important to keep the flu season to a minimum to keep pressure off the health care system.

“We need to make sure that these rooms at this point are available for the COVID-19 and available for other problems,” said Dr. Al Akhrass.

Dr. Al Akhrass says during the 2018-2019 flu season, 490,000 were hospitalized and more than 35,000 people died.

“This is what’s considered a moderate season and as you look at the numbers right now we’re already past five million people with COVID-19 and we have more than 170,000 people die because of the COVID-19,” said Dr. Akhrass.

While the influenza vaccine is not 100 percent effective, Dr. Al Akhrass says it will cut down complications from the flu and limit hospitalizations.

“So even if you have it the symptoms are going to be milder and you save yourself from going to the hospital and ICU even if you catch the flu and some of the time over 50 percent of the time you’re going to be fully protected from the flu,” said Dr. Akhrass.

He also told WYMT, it is very important for children to receive the vaccine as they are major viral infectors for the flu.

“Make sure to take care of the influenza at least to be able to reopen schools and sustain reopening of schools,” said Dr. Al Akhrass.

The flu season starts in late October and peaks December into February.

Dr. Al Akhrass encourages people to get the shot by the beginning of October as it takes two weeks before the vaccine is effective.

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