Nov 15th, 2020, 11:26 PM

COVID-19 and Influenza Converge

By Emilyn Snyder
A nurse extracting a dose of influenza vaccine. Image Credit: Unsplash/CDC
As France struggles to handle the concurrence of both viruses, few AUP students have received flu vaccines.

As winter rolls around and the flu season begins, it has once again become the time to get seasonal vaccines. However, with COVID-19 currently running rampant and Paris under lockdown, are AUP students even considering getting vaccinated for the flu?

Out of 50 AUP students surveyed, only five have gotten their flu vaccines for 2020. When it comes to getting the flu vaccine every year, only 40 percent say they even try.

For this minority of students, the driving force behind their decision to get the influenza vaccine this year has to do with COVID-19. Because the coronavirus and the seasonal flu have similar symptoms, there is a higher probability of misdiagnosis and very little known about detecting co-infection. For France, an overlap of the flu and the ongoing pandemic could add to the burden on the country's already strained hospitals. Experts agree that the best way to prevent such a strain is to ramp up the production and distribution of the influenza vaccine.

"The influenza vaccine is by no means perfect," said Northwestern University assistant professor of medicine Benjamin Singer to The Lancet. "But if countries manage to get as many people vaccinated as possible, they would put themselves in the best possible position to minimize the burden on health-care systems."

In line with this advice, the French government launched a nationwide influenza vaccination campaign on October 13 in order to save room in hospitals. And yet, a week later, pharmacies across the country were already sold out. Now, the French government is asking all non-high-risk groups to wait on getting their vaccines.


Most AUP students do not fall into the high-risk category, but if they are willing to be patient during the lockdown, it's possible they may be able to receive the flu vaccine once the stock is replenished. The AUP Health and Wellness Center gives a list of English-speaking medical practitioners. It is recommended that if a student wants to get a seasonal vaccine that they select a general practitioner from the list and contact them to ask about the vaccine for themselves. Unfortunately, due to the current shortage, it will not become available right away.

Roughly 70 percent of the students who have yet to get the flu shot say they still plan to get it sometime this semester. For Isabella Beach, a junior at AUP, the decision to get the vaccine has all been determined by the quarantine. "Before we went into confinement, I would have gotten the flu vaccine," she said. "Now, if the confinement ends on December 1, I'll probably try to get it then."

A nurse administers a vaccination. Image Credit: Unsplash/National Cancer Institute 

Like Beach, some students feel that the mentality behind getting the flu vaccine is that it is better to be safe than sorry. However, the anti-covid restrictions in place in Paris have the added benefit of also protecting its inhabitants from the flu. Many of the same precautions apply to preventing influenza, such as keeping the mouth and nose covered in public and avoiding close contact with strangers. For the majority of surveyed AUP students who haven't received influenza vaccines, this lessens concerns about catching the flu. 

Further diminishing concern is news that came on November 9, when the public was informed of a possible COVID-19 vaccination showing positive results. It has shown to be effective for 90 percent of the testers, but in all likelihood won't be released until December or early on in the year 2021. 

This is an unprecedented situation; the duel threat of influenza and COVID-19 not only affects our health but also the health of France's hospitals. Beyond getting vaccinated, the best way to avoid the risk of both viruses is to follow the rules of confinement and stay safe.