BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Public health officials looking ahead to fall and winter say they’re dreading the possibility of a new surge of COVID-19 cases. And now, as we move into regular flu season, many are expressing double dread — the possibility that a severe flu strain, and a reluctance or inability of Americans to get vaccinated, could hit the population doubly hard.

They’re calling it a “twindemic.”

How can people avoid getting hit with this double whammy? Number one, get the flu vaccine — and,
fortunately, flu shots are starting to become available in Kern County.

Health officials say even a mild flu season could stagger hospitals already dealing with Covid-19. And though officials don’t know yet what degree of severity to expect this year, they are worried large numbers of people could skip getting flu shots, increasing the risk of huge outbreaks.

The concern about a “twindemic” is so great many health organizations are pushing the flu shot before it’s even widely available. That’s the case on both the local and national levels.

The CDC, which usually purchases 500,000 doses for uninsured adults, has this year ordered nearly 20 times that many.

The Kern County Department of Public Health is also making plans to administer flu vaccines to the uninsured at a low price. And they’re getting the word out.

“We have been meeting, and, in fact, part of what we do is we launch an awareness campaign,” said Public Health spokeswoman Michelle Corson. “Just today, billboards are now up here in Bakersfield, there are radio PSAs that have begun about the importance of getting your flu shot.

The minute we have in line exactly where our clinics are going to be and what they are gonna look like, we are going to begin to promote those.”

Many major pharmacies, including CVS, have been administering the vaccine for several weeks now.

Dignity Health and Adventist Health, which between them operate four of the largest hospitals in Kern County, are both planning on free drive through flu shot clinics when their allotments become available.

Kaiser Permanente opened two drive through vaccine clinics on Monday, and a steady stream of kaiser-insured patients was flowing through the ming avenue location Tuesday morning.

Kaiser Permanente physician Rr. Puja Vithalani said the vaccine is so much more important this year.

“Getting both, like this ‘twindemic’ that everyone is talking about getting — both the flu and Covid — is a possibility,” she said, “so if you can protect your body against one part of it, at least, that will help you overall.”

Kaiser Permanente patient Lee Laytort says he and wife Becky get the shot every year.

“I’d definitely get a flu shot,” he said. “This will be our 20th year getting the flu shot and we’ve never had any reaction or anything and we’ve never had the flu. So I think it’s the wise thing to do.”

Either illness — separately — can be devastating. But two at once? Doctors believe that coming down with both viruses hurts a patient’s odds of full recovery considerably.

Many of the symptoms of Covid-19 and the seasonal flu are actually the same — and one of the most important things you can do to stave off both those things is also the same: a mask.

Vaccine makers are projecting that a record 98 million flu shots will be given this year in the United States, about 15 percent more doses than last year.