MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - In preparation for an eventual roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine, the state of Alabama is receiving a larger number of influenza vaccines this year.
According to State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, the state will be receiving somewhere between 10 to 15 times the number of influenza vaccines than normal. The vaccinations will be available through county health departments and other providers.
The unusually large scale flu vaccination effort is meant to serve as a dry run for how the COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed and made available.
“Flu season serves as an opportunity for us to not only roll out the flu vaccine, because we need to do that, but it also serves as a good way to plan for how we might roll out a COVID vaccine,” Harris said.
The large amount of flu vaccines being shipped to the state will also be greatly needed as health experts push for more people to get immunized.
“We’re using the number of doses to get ready for COVID, but we also really want people to take the flu vaccine,” Harris said. “We say that every year, but this year more than ever.”
“I think that more people will take the flu vaccine this year than have ever taken it before, understanding that it’s a virus and is somewhat similar to what we are dealing with now with COVID-19," said Dr. William Saliski, Montgomery-area Pulmonologist.
According to the CDC, vaccine manufacturers have projected that they will supply as many as 194 to 198 million doses of influenza vaccine for the 2020-2021 season. The CDC says the flu vaccination will be very important to reduce flu because it can help reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses on the population and thus lessen the resulting burden on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After all, this will be the first time the state is tackling both COVID-19 and the flu.
“Having these two things at the same time is a concern,” Harris said. “We want to make sure, more than ever, we’re pushing influenza vaccines to anyone who is a candidate to take it.”
Health experts say the ability to contract both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time is possible.
“I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t get both,” Dr. Saliski said. " I myself have not seen anyone with both at the same time, but I’m sure it’s probably going to be possible."
With flu shots being even more readily available this year, doctors say their is no excuse not to get vaccinated.
“You want the maximum amount of protection you can get to not get the flu,” Saliski said. “Wearing a mask, social distancing, all of the things you can do to prevent COVID will be the exact same for the flu. So absolutely the flu vaccine is paramount of importance to prevent the flu.”
The flu season in Alabama runs from October through May. The Department of Public Health recommends an annual flu shot for every person six months or older, with rare exceptions.
As of Oct. 15, there have been nearly 169,000 cases of COVID-19 in Alabama and more than 2,700 deaths according to the Alabama Department of Public Death.