Vermont docs mull potential flu and COVID ‘twindemic’


MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — Health leaders in Vermont don’t have a crystal ball to forecast this year’s flu season. They say only time will tell, but the word “twindemic” is on their radar, as COVID remains prevalent and the two illnesses could collide.

“We think that the decreased mask-wearing might open the door to more flu this year than compared to last year,” said Dr. Tim Lahey, infectious disease physician at UVM.

Dr. Lahey says it’s no secret that fewer Vermonters are wearing masks. This time last year, mask mandates were in place and there were no vaccine appointments in sight. Lahey believes that since preventive measures were at a high, flu activity remained low.

“Last year, as an infectious diseases physician, I did not see one case of influenza,” Dr. Lahey said. “This was the experience around the world, we think, because so many people were wearing masks and doing social distancing that influenza didn’t happen at the same time as we were preventing COVID-19.”

The doctor adds that Vermonters did not build any immunity due to last year’s lack of flu. But, is it safe to get the influenza vaccine if you’re also considering a dose of the COVID vaccine, or due for a booster? Vermont’s health commissioner, Dr. Mark Levine says it is.

“Getting them together has the advantage of one-stop shopping and you might forget about it if you decide to delay it,” Levine said. “The month of October is the time we would love to see everyone get the flu shot.”

Levine says this year’s shot protects against two strains each of influenza A and influenza B. He’s also turned to the southern hemisphere to look at Australia’s flu season. It’s already come and gone, since seasons are reversed. “They did not have that big resurgence of flu this year which has been a little comforting for me to hear,” he said.

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