Fearing ‘Twindemic,' Health Experts Pushing Flu Shots

A Bankers Hill senior living facility is getting creative to maximize the number of elderly residents who receive the flu vaccine

NBC Universal, Inc.

Health experts are warning about the possibility of a "twindemic" in the coming months, referring to the combination of coronavirus and influenza.

It's an especially alarming time for senior citizens who are being urged to get flu shots like never before.

To get the point across, organizers of a "flu shot rally" held outside Merrill Gardens Senior Living in Bankers Hill blasted music, put up smiley face signs, and promoted a photo booth, all as part of an effort to get more residents vaccinated.

"This morning I woke up to all this excitement which was quite different," said Jewell Beck, a Merrill Gardens Resident. "I couldn't help but smile, it was very, very exciting"

The flu shot is particularly important for elderly San Diegans who are more likely to face serious complications.

"The flu vaccine is so important because of the pandemic we're going through," said Kelly Biondo, Merrill Gardens Resident Care Director.

Just three years ago during one of the worst seasons, influenza killed 343 people in San Diego County, which is nearly half the number of COVID-19 related deaths in our county so far this year.

Biondo and others who work in San Diego health care worry about the strain on hospitals if a bad influenza season collides with the pandemic.

Merrill Gardens has historically not had as many residents get the flu shot as they'd like. People are worried about getting sick or think they'll be protected inside the facility.

"Since they're being quarantined so to speak to their building, and following our social distancing rules within the community, a lot of them feel it's not necessary, but it is necessary," said Biondo.

Many government leaders and health experts have already referred to the 2020 flu vaccinations as the most important of our lifetime, which is why Merrill Gardens went big with their "flu shot pep rally."

"I would be the first to be positive and tell them it is a thing to do, it will help," said Beck.

To maximize influenza vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC said it will increase the availability of the vaccine by millions of doses.

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