Thursday, October 1, 2020— Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), along with other public health and medical groups, kicked-off the 2020-2021 flu vaccination season, emphasizing the added importance of vaccination this season during a virtual press conferenceexternal icon. Participants, including director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health Dr. Anthony Fauci, urged the public and health care professionals to follow the CDC recommendation that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against flu annually
Encourage your followers on social media to roll up their sleeves for an annual flu vaccine by featuring photos of yourself and others in your community getting a flu vaccine or showing off a bandage after getting a flu vaccine.
CDC also released multiple reports on the 2019-2020 flu season today, including influenza vaccination coverage estimates among the U.S. public, health care providers and pregnant women. The agency also released updated preliminary estimates on the burden of flu last season, and for the first time, estimates for the burden of flu averted by vaccination last season.
During 2019-2020, CDC estimates there were 38 million flu illnesses, 18 million flu-associated medical visits, 400,000 flu hospitalizations and 22,000 flu-associated deaths. These numbers are lower than the in-season burden estimates provided last season, because they were calculated using more recently available data on flu testing practices in patients hospitalized with flu, which is a key input in the model CDC uses to generate these estimates. Influenza testing has increased in recent years, which can cause preliminary burden estimates to change. An example is the preliminary burden estimates made for the 2017-2018 season, when an initial estimate of 79,000 deaths, was later updated to 61,000. The CDC website has more information on how CDC estimates flu burden.
CDC also provided new estimates on the burden of flu averted by vaccination last season. CDC estimates that flu vaccination prevented 7.5 million flu illnesses, 3.7 million flu medical visits, 105,000 flu hospitalizations and 6,300 flu deaths. These estimates are based on vaccine effectiveness estimates from 2019-2020, as well as data on vaccine coverage during last flu season which were also released by CDC today.
CDC’s influenza vaccination coverage reports show that overall flu vaccination coverage (among people 6 months and older) during 2019-2020 increased from the previous season to nearly 52%. This is the highest flu vaccine coverage for this age group recorded since CDC recommended universal influenza vaccination of all persons 6 months and older in 2010. However, this figure also means that nearly half of U.S. residents did not get vaccinated. While flu vaccination increased overall for both children and adults, coverage did not increase among certain racial and ethnic groups. Black children have lower flu vaccination coverage than children of all other racial/ethnic groups. Hispanic adults and black adults continue to have lower flu vaccination coverage than white adults. Additionally, only 44% of people with chronic conditions were vaccinated against flu last season. And while flu vaccination coverage among pregnant women increased from 54% to 61% that still leaves a significant number of pregnant women and their babies unprotected from flu. Pregnant women and people with certain chronic conditions are among those at higher risk for flu complications, so it is especially important for them to be vaccinated against flu annually. Lastly, CDC’s flu vaccination coverage estimates for health care workers show that 81% were vaccinated against flu last season. Coverage was highest among physicians (98%) and lowest among aides and assistants (72%).
CDC has emphasized the added importance of getting a flu vaccine during the 2020-2021 flu season because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While it is unclear how the pandemic will affect the flu season, CDC is preparing for COVID-19 and seasonal flu to spread at the same time. Co-circulation could place a tremendous burden on our health care system and result in many illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths. Getting a flu vaccine is something easy people can do to protect themselves and their loved ones and to help reduce the spread of flu this fall and winter. Flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19. But vaccination has many other benefits and is part of a comprehensive public health strategy to reduce the burden of flu, which can flatten the curve of respiratory illnesses overall, help protect essential workers from flu, and preserve medical resources for care of patients with COVID-19. October is a good time to get vaccinated, but as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination can continue—even in January or later. The more people who are vaccinated against flu; the more people are protected from flu.
Now More Than Ever
CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older be vaccinated against flu. It protects the person getting vaccinated and the people around them. Flu vaccines have been shown to prevent flu illness and reduce the risk of hospitalizations and deaths. Flu vaccination is proven to help protect pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions while reducing the burden of flu on our communities and health care system. This year, especially, it will be most important to protect those at higher risk for flu complications. Many of these people are also at high risk for COVID-19 illness or serious outcomes. It is also important for caregivers and essential workers to protect themselves and those around them from flu by getting a flu vaccine.
Vaccine and Administration
Manufacturers estimate between 194 and 198 million doses of flu vaccine will be available this season. Approximately 99% of the flu vaccines will be quadrivalent. COVID-19 activity may affect when, where and how flu vaccines will be given. CDC has provided interim guidance for vaccination to help immunization providers ensure safe administration of vaccines during the pandemic. So far, nearly 90 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed in the United States.