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Ask a doctor: Following COVID-19 precautions also keeps the flu at bay

Some people wear protective face masks in a crowd at Weekend One of Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 1, 2021.
Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
Some people wear protective face masks in a crowd at Weekend One of Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 1, 2021.

From Texas Standard:

In this installment of Ask a Doctor, UT Health San Antonio physician Dr. Fred Campbell answers questions about the coronavirus vaccines and the upcoming flu season.

Texas Standard: As we approach flu season, some health experts are cautioning patients about a “twindemic” of both COVID-19 and the common flu. Obviously, medical experts recommend that folks get their flu shot. But is there any reason to believe this flu season will be worse than the last one?

Dr. Fred Campbell: Because we had a very, very mild flu season last year, the CDC is concerned about some decreased immunity on that part of the American population. The good news is that nations in the southern hemisphere experienced extremely good flu seasons, primarily because of their masking and social distancing policies. So making sure that one is doing that inside facilities outside the home should be very, very important in terms of reducing the risk of both flu and COVID-19 during the upcoming season.

There's been a real race to try to come up with a solution for vaccinating kids under 12. Earlier in the pandemic, there were concerns about side effects among young people. What more is known about those concerns and how they should be weighed when deciding to vaccinate kids?

Fortunately, there's some very up-to-date information from this week's New England Journal of Medicine about Israel and their experience with myocarditis in their vaccinated population. They've had several million people vaccinated. The incidence of myocarditis is slightly increased in the vaccinated population, particularly in teenagers, but the risk is still extremely low somewhere in the one to 6,000 range. So it's still a great idea to vaccinate, particularly the folks that are at high risk.

What are you hearing about the timeline for children under 12 being approved for one of the vaccines?

I'm hearing very good reports and predictions, particularly from former FDA administrators, and it appears that there's a very good chance of our being able to see emergency authorization for younger people by October 31st.

How do you feel about where we are with this pandemic? Is there indeed a permanent light at the end of the tunnel as you see it?

There's no way to be absolutely certain as to what the future will hold as far as COVID-19. I am very optimistic about the decrease in incidence at this particular time, and I believe that we could continue with a policy of masking and that people could be good role models to continue masking and social distancing throughout the upcoming flu season. And with increased vaccination, we could get to a point where COVID-19 is a relatively minor health threat in the future.