Every year when flu season rolls around, I take satisfaction in getting my flu shot and making sure my kids do too. It always feels good to check that box and know that I’m helping keep the spread of seasonal flu at bay by getting vaccinated. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has felt like more than a personal duty to get our shots – it has been nonnegotiable, given the heightened risks and uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus.

The pandemic has also had a profound effect on flu transmission, but in ways that are not always intuitive, explain Mark S. Roberts, an expert in infectious disease modeling, and Richard K. Zimmerman, a vaccine policy specialist – both from the University of Pittsburgh. Their recent modeling research suggests that last year’s dramatic reduction in flu cases – thanks to protective measures against COVID-19 – could lead to a startling comeback of the flu this year.

However, Roberts and Zimmerman’s models also show that people’s individual choices, such as social distancing, mask-wearing and getting their flu shot, will play a big role in determining the outcome.

Also today:

Amanda Mascarelli

Health and Medicine Editor

A bad flu year on top of the pandemic could mean trouble for already-stressed hospitals. George Clerk/E+ Collection via Getty Images

Flu season paired with COVID-19 presents the threat of a ‘twindemic,’ making the need for vaccination all the more urgent

Mark S Roberts, University of Pittsburgh; Richard K Zimmerman, University of Pittsburgh

Recent computer modeling shows the upcoming flu season might see a surge in cases. Coupled with COVID-19’s continued threat, doctors are again urging Americans to get their shots.

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The Conversation Quiz 🧠

  • What year did Syukuro Manabe and his colleague, Richard Wetherald, use a simplified version of their climate model to perform the first quantitative study of the effects of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

    1. A. 1955
    2. B. 1967
    3. C. 1979
    4. D. 1992

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