Doctors stress importance of flu shots as Wisconsin hospitals battle COVID-19

NOW: Doctors stress importance of flu shots as Wisconsin hospitals battle COVID-19

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- Getting your flu shot this year may be more important than ever.

That's the message from doctors who have concerns about this year's influenza season as hospitals battle COVID-19.

Pharmacies are geared up to handle an influx of people going to get the flu shot. 

Health experts say there are a lot of unknowns heading into this flu season.

In an average year in Wisconsin, only about 41% of people get a flu shot.

Doctors say this flu season should be considered anything but average. Right now, nearly 90% of hospital beds and 91% of ICU beds are in use, according to the state Department of Health Services.

"We're already starting to see hospitals have to make plans for how they would cancel routine procedures and go back to where we were in the beginning of the Covid pandemic," said UW Health Dr. James Conway.

Adding a mild flu season could make that situation far worse.

"A Covid pandemic plus a flu outbreak, it could be significant, it could be really, really impactful on hospitals."

Doctors are urging people to get their flu shot now. There is also little known about how severe this year's season may be because flu cases were so low in southern hemisphere countries, which normally gives the US an idea of how the season will go. 

"We really have very little to go on, and to predict either what the strains are going to be and circulate, nor how severe it's going to be, and I think that's really what the big fear is, that we have no idea how to anticipate it," Dr. Conway said. "We've got our team in place."

Health care systems, including pharmacies, say they are prepared for an influx of people wanting flu shots as well as Covid-19 jabs and boosters.

"Very common question, can I get my flu shot and my Covid shot together. And the simple answer is yes," said Meijer Pharmacy Team Leader Adam Lubin.

The CDC recommends you get your flu shot by the end of October, so the message from health leaders is simple.

"Honestly the sooner the better, no time to waste."

The 2019-2020 flu season saw about 740,000 hospitalizations and 62,000 deaths, according to the CDC.

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