Pharmacy chains in the U.S. are preparing for the flu season in October by ensuring that flu vaccine doses are available for customers who seek to protect themselves against the seasonal illness. Experts expect the flu season to coincide with the second wave of coronavirus infections in the country.

According to Australian vaccine maker CSL Ltd’s Seqirus, demand for the flu vaccine has increased by 10 percent since the coronavirus pandemic. To meet the surge in customers in October, pharmacies like CVS Health Corp, Rite Aid Corp, Walmart Inc., and Walgreens Boots Alliance are now working to increase their stashes of the flu vaccine.

A recent poll conducted among 4,428 adults last May revealed that more than half of the U.S. population plan to get the flu vaccine in the fall. This is far greater than the number of Americans who usually get vaccinated every year.

While getting a flu vaccine does not protect one against COVID-19, public health officials believe that the increase in Americans getting flu vaccination will help prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with flu patients during the flu season. Experts also believe this will be critical since the flu season may coincide with the second wave of coronavirus.

“We’re in for a double-barreled assault this fall and winter with flu and COVID,” said Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease expert from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Flu is the one you can do something about,” he added.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine for people over 6 months of age. According to CDC, the combination of the flu season and the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in October could take a heavier toll on Americans than the first wave of the virus. The CDC also urged experts to come up with creative ways to ensure that every American gets a shot of the flu vaccine before the dreaded second wave of the pandemic arrives.

“My goal is that every single vaccine dose that is made gets into somebody’s arm to protect them,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease. “I don’t want any vaccines left on the shelves or in doctors’ offices,” she added.

At least 170 million doses of the flu vaccine were produced last year in preparation for the flu season. 740,000 hospitalizations and 62,000 flu-related deaths were recorded in the U.S. between 2019 and 2020.

A man gets the flu vaccine in Mexico City. A man receives a vaccination by injection for seasonal flu, Type A influenza subtypes H1N1 and N3H3, at a subway station in downtown Mexico City January 29, 2014 Reuters/Tomas Bravo