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The pace of people getting their first COVID-19 vaccine dose has dropped to the lowest in two months, according to CNN.
Public health officials are taking note as vaccination rates slow to the rate last seen in late July. With flu season around the corner, strained hospitals could experience depleted resources and an influx of patients.
“We are bracing ourselves for an awfully busy winter ahead,” Megan Ranney, MD, associate dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN.
About 312,000 people started the vaccination process during the last week, according to the latest CDC data released Wednesday. That’s a 7% drop from last week and a 35% drop from last month.
The average number of all doses given each day, including second doses, was about 743,000 during the past week. That’s a 19% drop from the beginning of September, CNN reported.
About 182 million people, or 64% of the those who are eligible to get a shot, have been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data. Another 30 million have received at least one dose. That leaves about 71 million people who haven’t yet been vaccinated.
At the same time, COVID-19 deaths are once again averaging more than 2,000 per day, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
Public health officials can’t yet say how this year’s flu season will affect the US population and healthcare system. However, some have voiced concerns about the additional strain that two major illnesses could cause when circulating at the same time.
“Let’s be clear on why flu cases were so low last year. It’s because we were all masked and we were all distancing,” Ranney said. “Those things are not being done anymore in the vast majority of the country.”
Vaccine clinics across the country are encouraging people to get both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu shot to protect themselves this year. Doctors recommend that both adults and children 6 months and older receive a flu shot by Halloween, CNN reported.
“If somebody comes in wanting the flu vaccine and they haven’t had a COVID vaccine, then we can encourage them to get both, or vice versa,” Robert Hopkins, MD, chief of general internal medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, told CNN.
If doctors and other healthcare providers can encourage people to get both, “we potentially are going to have a greater impact on both disease prevention efforts,” he said.