Flu Vaccination Urged During COVID-19 Pandemic
Author: Dr. Asma Burney (MBBS) | Reviewer: Muhammad Rehan Mian (MSPH) | August 31, 2020
With the flu season approaching, concerns around a potential “twindemic” of influenza and COVID-19 have grown. On August 22, 2020, a news article published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) discussed the need for encouragement of flu vaccination and the challenges in its execution, with opinions of various public health experts.
Previously it has been observed that vaccinations considerably reduce the severity of the flu and subsequent hospitalizations. This is crucial especially now as the pandemic has already increased the burden on the healthcare system. Keeping this in view, southern hemisphere countries that experience flu season from April to September, have stocked up on vaccines and have taken measures to increase their outreach.
In the United States, however, public health officials are worried about the public’s prevailing disregard and apathy towards flu shots. Even during the 2018-2019 flu season that experienced a relatively high mortality rate, only around 45% of adults and 63% of children were vaccinated in the US, despite the vaccine’s accessibility and affordability. According to the Immunization Action Coalition’s chief strategy officer, it would be an accomplishment if 60% of the eligible population can be vaccinated this year. Experts are also hopeful that the fear and anxiety surrounding COVID-19 will urge people to participate more and reconsider their reservations.
Nevertheless, challenges persist in achieving mass vaccination and the eradication of its associated myths. The JAMA news article cited false social media claims about increased chances of acquiring COVID-19 with flu vaccines. Similarly, there are circulating assumptions that the flu vaccine may give immunity against COVID-19, or that precautionary measures for coronavirus, such as handwashing, protect against the flu. Such beliefs will abstain the public from receiving flu shots and therefore must be clarified.
According to the report, efforts are being made to promote flu vaccinations across the United States. The CDC reportedly purchased 9.3 million adult vaccine doses for states and jurisdictions and also dispersed an extra $140 million for promotion through media and outreach campaigns. People with chronic health conditions, racial and ethnic minorities, and long-term care workers will be a top priority. Moreover, steps are being taken to ensure the safe deliverance of vaccines. Apart from clinics and hospitals, options for local vaccine coalitions are also being explored, such as temporary set-ups in parking lots or gyms and drive-through clinics. Manufacturers of vaccines have also announced the expansion of their production by 10% for the year, and hope to supply 194 -198 million doses during the 2020-2021 flu season.
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