CDC doctor discusses importance of vaccines during flu season, effect of viruses on marginalized groups

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – As fall approaches, healthcare leaders are warning about the return of flu season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leaders are encouraging people to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu to avoid what they describe as a "twindemic" of the flu and COVID-19.

"Two viruses are still co-circulating," Dr. Leandris Liburd, of the CDC, stated, "and it’s actually still good to continue to wear a mask, to wash your hands, avoid large crowds and get vaccinated."

During the 2020-21 flu season, COVID-19 safety measures led to flu cases going down. However, as this flu season approaches with fewer measures in place, officials are worried there is a great risk of getting the flu.

"Our hospital systems are overtaxed as they continue to fight COVID-19," Liburd said, "and as people are continuing to be hospitalized for COVID-19, but this doesn’t have to be the case with the flu."

According to the CDC, a severe flu season can have as many as 41 million cases and over 700,000 hospitalizations. Many of these cases can particularly impact historically-marginalized groups.

"We’re particularly concerned about our African-American and Hispanic/Latino communities because historically there has been low vaccination rates in these communities but high levels of hospitalizations and deaths associated with underlying conditions," Liburd said.

Underlying conditions, such as lung disease, diabetes and heart disease, can disproportionately affect these communities.

"Upwards of 30% of African-Americans, Hispanic and Latinos are still reluctant to get a flu shot and we know there are patterns of historical distrust with the healthcare system and vaccinations and we know there is a huge amount of disinformation and misinformation in the community," Liburd stated.

The CDC reiterates the COVID-19 and flu vaccines are safe and that people – 6 months or older – can get both vaccines at the same time.