Flu and Pneumococcal Vaccination Urged Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Influenza vaccination is critical to protect individuals and communities
people in line to get a flu shot all with masks on
(Precision Vaccinations)

New data released by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) showed that only 59 percent of US adults intend to get vaccinated against influenza during the 2020-2021 flu season. 

According to statements published on October 1, 2020, this percent is concerning to public health officials, who are bracing for the potential impact from a dual outbreak of flu and COVID-19 this winter. 

In a news conference today, representatives from NFID and other leading public health and medical organizations, urged the public and healthcare professionals to follow the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation for everyone age 6 months and older to get vaccinated against seasonal influenza viruses annually.

The CDC estimates show that among children age 6 months to 17 years, flu vaccination coverage was nearly 64 percent for the 2019-2020 flu season, an increase from the previous season (63%). 

And flu vaccination among adults rose to 48 percent, although coverage was higher among older adults compared to younger adults.

"Now more than ever, flu vaccination is critical to not only protect individuals and communities but also to reduce the burden of flu on our healthcare system as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic," said Marla Dalton, CAE, NFID executive director, and chief executive officer, in a related press release.

NFID has again commissioned a survey to better understand public awareness of flu, pneumococcal disease, and COVID-19, as well as attitudes and behaviors around adult vaccination. The survey revealed that 25 percent of survey respondents said that if flu vaccines were offered in alternative settings like drive-thru clinics, in addition to medical offices and pharmacies, they would be more likely to get vaccinated.

"That is good news," said NFID Medical Director William Schaffner, MD. "In the midst of a pandemic, people should be more motivated than ever before to get a flu vaccine. Even in cases when flu vaccine does not prevent infection completely, it may reduce the severity of illness and prevent serious complications—keeping people out of hospitals during this critical time."

The survey also found that nearly one in four US adults (22%) who are at high risk for flu-related complications (e.g., adults age 65 years and older, smokers, and those with diabetes, asthma, heart disease, or kidney disease) said they were not planning to get vaccinated this season. 

Similarly, the NFID survey found that 51 percent of those at high risk for pneumococcal disease report that they have never been advised to get vaccinated against pneumococcal disease, which can be a serious complication of flu.

"During the 2019-2020 flu season, approximately 93 percent of US adults who were hospitalized for flu-related complications had an underlying medical condition," added Dr. Asch, a cardiologist representing the American College of Cardiology. 

"This year, I am especially concerned, as older adults and those with some chronic health conditions are at higher risk for complications of both flu and COVID-19. These individuals must take every possible precaution, including a discussion with their healthcare professionals about vaccination against flu and pneumococcal disease."

Today, CDC updated preliminary estimates on the burden of flu during the 2019-2020 season and also provided new estimates on the burden of flu averted by vaccination during the 2019-2020 season. 

Overall, CDC estimates that flu vaccines prevented 7.5 million flu illnesses, 3.7 million flu-associated medical visits, 105,000 flu hospitalizations, and 6,300 flu deaths during the last flu season.

More information about the survey findings is available at National Survey: Attitudes about Influenza, Pneumococcal Disease, and COVID-19.

PrecisionVaccinations publishes research-based flu vaccine news.