Coronavirus News: Health experts urge flu shots in effort to avoid 'twindemic'

With people so focused on keeping coronavirus at bay, many health officials are worried people will forget about getting a flu shot. And the results, they say, could be catastrophic.

"We don't need a epidemic in the midst of a pandemic, producing a twindemic," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Stephen Brunquell, president Englewood Health Physicians Network.

He says protecting yourself from the flu this season could be a matter of life and death.

"If you don't want to get COVID, don't get influenza," he said. "Your immune system takes a serious hit with influenza, and with COVID in the community, your chance of getting it goes way up. Now you've got two viruses, so we need to prevent that as much as possible."

He also warned about some common misconceptions.

First, he said the belief that the flu shot will give you the flu is not true.

It's also false, he said, that the flu vaccine won't protect you until the end of the season or April.

Finally, he said rumors that the flu shots are in short supply and will run out are fiction. But he still urges people not to delay.

"People shouldn't hesitate," he said. "They should get a flu vaccine wherever they can get a flu vaccine."

If you haven't been to the doctor's office, it is a much different experience amid the pandemic. For many, your car is the waiting room, and you'll be asked to stay there until you get a call to enter. And don't forget your mask.

Once inside, you'll likely get a temperature check first.

Flu shots can run up to $50 each, and cost is a concern for cash-strapped families with stretched funds. So check around for discounts, and Good RX is a tool that compares prices for you.

CVS and Walgreens are both giving away cash coupons with free flu shots for insured customers, and many college students, seniors and veterans can get immunized for no charge.

"There are flu shots that are low cost, no cost," said Melissa Acree, executive director of NJ211. "We recommend you contact local public health departments, federally qualifed health clinics."

Non-profits like NJ211 maintain a database of resources, while reassuring clients hesistant to get a flu shot that it's safe and necessary.

The precautions for preventing COVID are the same as for the flu, including washing your hands often, staying home if you're sick, and covering your mouth.
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.