A New York patient receives a flu shot from a New York medical assistant.
Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images
Flu vaccine manufacturers plan to deliver record vaccine doses to the US this year as health officials prepare to urge as many Americans as possible to protect themselves in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic.
"Although we don't yet have a Covid vaccine, we do have an instrument to prevent influenza," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease Control and Prevention Centers, recently in a podcast interview.
The four flu vaccine manufacturers have announced they will ship nearly 200 million cans to the US this year, an increase of almost 15% over the previous season.
"There has been tremendous public and private demand for the coming season," said Elaine O & # 39; Hara, head of Sanofi Pasteur's North American commercial division, the vaccine division of French drug maker Sanofi.
According to CDC data, fewer than half of American adults and about 60% of children get flu shots each year. Public health experts are targeting a higher number this year to reduce the burden on hospitals already affected by Covid-19.
"The last thing we want now is that beds that could go to Covid patients will be used for influenza patients. Ventilators that are needed for Covid patients must now be redirected to influenza," said Dr. Jose Romero, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and interim director of the Arkansas Department of Health.
Each year, between 9 and 45 million Americans fall ill, cause at least 140,000 hospitalizations, and result in 12,000 to 61,000 deaths, according to the CDC.
And even though the flu shot isn't perfect – it ranges from 20 to 60% effectiveness per season, depending on how well scientists can predict which strains will circulate – the agency says the vaccine prevents and prevents millions of diseases and thousands of hospitalizations Flu deaths every year.
Experts note that the vaccine can also lead to minor illnesses.
"While we may get a mild case of influenza, there will be less severe cases of influenza leading to doctor visits that can overwhelm a doctor's office or hospitalizations," said Dr. Leonard Friedland, vice president and director of science and public health for GlaxoSmithKline vaccines.
With the pandemic stopping many from routine doctor visits, Friedland, who is also a practicing doctor, is launching an advertising campaign to remind people that they are up to date on their vaccines – for all vaccine-preventable diseases. not just flu.
In the meantime, health officials are preparing for the uncertainty of the upcoming flu season in addition to Covid-19.
"That's another reason to get the flu vaccine this year," said Romero. "They don't want to get Covid flu or flu on Covid. Because we don't know what the clinical manifestations will look like. We can only suspect or suspect that they could be additive and harmful."
Public health experts also say that this year it is possible that the flu season will be less severe due to Covid 19-related social distancing, mask use, and increased hand hygiene – but only if we take these measures to ourselves and protect each other.