Hospitals and providers this fall and winter are facing a flu season that coincides with the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The effect that convergence of contagious respiratory illnesses will have is impossible to know. But officials with the Arizona Department of Health Services say widespread flu vaccine coverage will go a long way in preventing bad outcomes, including an overwhelmed hospital system.
"It's not too early to get your flu vaccine and we are encouraging everyone who can get a flu immunization to get immunized this year," Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona Department of Health Services director, said this week.
"With COVID, we want to make sure people are taking every step that they can to prevent viral respiratory illness so that we can decrease hospitalizations and bad outcomes."
State health officials say they will be launching a campaign in the next couple of weeks encouraging Arizonans to get their flu shots.
"This year, it's really important because we want to make sure we're keeping people healthy and taking the strain off the health care system," Christ said. "Usually, we'll just roll out whatever the CDC's campaign is, but this year, because of the importance, we will be rolling out an Arizona-specific campaign."
Major pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS confirmed to The Arizona Republic this week that they are already offering flu shots in their Arizona pharmacies, and that health providers giving the shots will be wearing personal protective equipment.