Local doctors discuss flu vaccine, COVID-19

Posted at 5:00 PM, Sep 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-23 10:24:27-04

BOISE — Doctors from across the state got together Tuesday morning to spread a message: get your flu shot.

They're also reminding the community that COVID-19 is still present and a threat. Currently, the risk of death from COVID is around six times as great as influenza. A vaccine improves both your immunity as an individual and for our community.

"All age groups need to have a vaccination; it's especially important for those in high-risk categories, children," Dr. John Kaiser, Saltzer Health Vice President & Chief Medical Officer. "For children, we know historically, there is about 80% of influenza-associated pediatric deaths that have occurred in unvaccinated children six months of age and older."

The benefits outweigh the risks, especially when COVID-19 looms in our community.

"The rate of serious, adverse effects is one in a million, and that's not a made-up number. That really is the number they see for events with the flu vaccine," said Dr. Richard Augustus, Chief Medical Officer for West Valley Medical Center. "So one in a million versus one in a thousand people in the U.S. might die from influenza, so if we can all be vaccinated to protect those people, it really is a good risk-benefit trade-off."

Doctors say we don't need to worry about a flu vaccine shortage either.

"We've given 10, 500 influenza vaccines, we're 30-40% ahead of last year," said Dr. David Peterman, Primary Health Medical Group CEO

"We have ample supply, and we're ready to vaccinate," said Dr. Mark Nassir, President of the Saint Alphonsus Medical Group.

Another factor complicates the situation: school.

"When children go back to school, it usually takes somewhere between 2-3 weeks before you see an upsurge," said Dr. Peterman.

Peterman says they see daily numbers of positive cases from children and staff in schools. The majority is community spread-related, not related to the classroom.

"I would say we see, not surprisingly, many positives from Boise State students," said Peterman.

There is no vaccine for COVID, and no studies suggest getting a flu vaccine decreases your chance of getting COVID. However, proper precautions can reduce your chances of getting both.

"I think the word 'influenza' comes from the Italian word to influence, and this pandemic has greatly influenced so much of our country, and our world and influenza also influences broadly into all groups all ages," said Dr. Nassir.

Just as COVID and the flu can look similar, the ways to prevent them are similar. Masks above your nose and mouth are still recommended, as is social distancing.

Doctors are also looking at efforts done in the southern hemisphere, like Australia, where they've already experienced their cold, fall season and had a relatively mild flu season.