Health officials urge everyone to get a flu vaccine this year to avoid a 'twindemic'

Posted at 11:02 AM, Sep 16, 2020

With health experts warning about the possibility of a "twindemic" — a bad flu season combined with COVID-19 — officials are urging everyone to help by getting a flu vaccine this fall.

Lisa Rasmussen is not living the retired life that she once dreamed.

"I became a flu widow at age 55," she said.

Four days before their 29th wedding anniversary, Rasmussen's husband Paul died at the age of 57.

"I had to spend the day of my anniversary in a funeral home making arrangements," she said.

That was in April of 2016. Four years later, it's still painful for Lisa. She's still grieving — and she's angry.

"I think I'm always going to be a bit mad at him because his death was preventable and because he didn't listen to me when I tried to talk him in to getting flu vaccines," Rasmussen said.

Today, Rasmussen spends her time traveling and advocating for Families Fighting Flu. The national non-profit is dedicated to increasing vaccination rates and advocating on behalf of families who have lost loved ones to influenza.

"Maybe it's my revenge — I shouldn't call it revenge — but it's my way of dealing with it: With the anger, frustration and grief that I have," she said. "I just don't want to see what other people to have to go through what I did."

Every year on Oct. 4 — her late husband's birthday — Rasmussen gets her flu shot, in his honor.

Dr. L.J Tan, the Chief strategy officer for the Immunization Action Coalition, says that most people don't get vaccinated for the flu not because they're against vaccines, but because it's not convenient.

"The people who adamantly refuse to get the flu vaccine is actually a small percentage for the other people who end up not getting the flu vaccine," Tan said. "A lot of time it's because flu is a vaccine of convenience."

The Immunization Action Coalition is the largest private sector non-profit that helps educate and support health care providers about all immunizations, including the flu. Tan joins other experts who are worried about this year's seasonal flu.

"We don't want flu and we don't want COVID together and there are reasons for that," Tan said. "We have chronic diseases, chronic illness — COVID-19 will have a serious impact on you. We also know that's true of flu. If you're over 60 or 65, COVID has a serious impact on you. We know that's true of flu as well."

The flu vaccine covers four strains and will either protect a person entirely or reduce their chances of contracting severe or serious influenza.

Some experts believe that the 2020 flu season won't be as severe due to social distancing measures already in place. But that's not a risk Tan is willing to take.

"Here's the problem: If I pray for that and that outcome happens, everyone is going to tell me, 'Why are you crying chicken little? Why were we all getting vaccinated against the flu?'" Tan said. "I don't know if that's the outcome. Why are we gambling? We have a vaccine that's safe, that's effective."

Rasmussen agrees.

"Save the ventilators for the people who have COVID," she said.

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