In what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Nancy Messonnier calls an “unprecedented” measure, vaccine manufacturers are increasing influenza vaccine production by 10 percent this year, which equates to millions of extra flu shots, in an effort to mitigate the dual impact of COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. In a recent report, the Washington Post’s Lena Sun writes that the proactive measure stems from “alarm among public health officials, clinicians, advocacy groups and industry executives about the additional threat from the coronavirus.”
The boost in vaccine production may prove critical to managing the public health threat because, according to disease experts cited by the Post, reducing episodes of the flu could “free up space in hospitals and medical offices to deal with COVID-19.” Immunization Action Coalition’s Chief Strategy Officer LJ Tan says the goal is “to take [the] flu off the table, in every way possible” and ensure the seasonal virus is a non-factor this coming fall and winter.
Although high-risk individuals have been strongly encouraged to stay home and avoid all possible exposure to COVID-19, Michael Greenberg, head of medical operations for Sanofi Pasteur, says physicians should instill confidence in patients and communicate the importance of getting vaccinated. He notes this is especially true for patients who need to be prioritized, “including residents and employees at long-term care facilities, African Americans, Hispanics, and people with underlying medical conditions.”
Sun says the CDC is currently “working with state health departments, pharmacies and other healthcare providers to develop curbside and drive-through flu clinics and other alternatives for people” to get vaccinated without risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.