Quebec's public health authorities are gearing up for flu season by ordering more vaccines, all the while hoping that hygiene measures to control COVID-19 will also help reduce the spread of influenza.
"We ordered more than 35 per cent [more vaccines] than last year to make sure we get enough vaccines for the population at risk, which are some of the same ones as COVID-19," said Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's public health director.
The province will start vaccinating high-risk patients for seasonal flu at Quebec's long term care homes — CHSLDs — in mid-October, said Arruda.
Those who are at an increased risk of flu complications — people 75 and over, children and adults with chronic diseases, and pregnant women in their second or third trimesters — can get a flu vaccine for free.
Dr. Gaston De Serres, a medical epidemiologist at Quebec's public health institute, the INSPQ, says while more vaccines will be available throughout Canada this year compared to previous years, it remains to be seen if the public will get vaccinated in greater numbers.
"There were requests for more vaccines for many provinces in Canada, but we're not talking about doubling the number of flu shots that will be available," said De Serres.
WATCH: Dr. Horacio Arruda on preparations for the upcoming flu season
The preparations also come as countries in the Southern Hemisphere, like Australia, where the flu season is already underway, are reporting unprecedented reductions in the numbers of confirmed flu cases and complications.
"In some countries, we're looking at reductions of 65 per cent. In some countries we're looking at reductions of 95 per cent or more," said Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital and professor at McGill University's department of medicine.
Health and safety measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 — like maintaining a 2-metre distance, wearing a mask, isolating and frequent handwashing — are also effective at reducing transmission of the flu.
Because symptoms of influenza are so similar to those of COVID-19, Oughton says it would be a good idea for public health to come up with a way to test for both viruses at the same time, something Arruda says is already being worked on in public health laboratories.
Arruda says the purpose of the test would be to determine what viruses are going around, because "there's going to be a mix of flu, a mix of COVID-19 and a mix of all kinds of other viruses."
For his part, Oughton, who has worked in hospitals during COVID-19 and during flu season, says he hopes people will go out and get vaccinated for the flu in droves, and maintain hygiene measures.
"I really don't want to be working in a hospital where we have simultaneous large peaks of both, because I think that will push health-care systems, hospitals, health-care workers, let alone patients, I think it will push all of those systems to the breaking point," he said.