Pharmacies Preparing For Increased Flu Shot Demand

Influenza vaccines do not protect people against COVID-19 disease
pharmacist loading up a syringe with a flu shot

Pharmacies in the USA are preparing for increased consumer demand for influenza vaccinations when the annual flu season kicks off in October 2020.

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted during mid-May found that about 60 percent of U.S. adults plan to get the flu shot this year.

Additionally, a separate survey commissioned by CVS Health between January and May found consumers who said they will definitely or are likely to get a flu shot rose from 34 percent to 65 percent.

Typically, about 40 percent of Americans get vaccinated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends influenza vaccinations for everyone over age 6 months, with any licensed, influenza vaccine that is appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status.

This CDC advice includes inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV), recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV), or live attenuated nasal spray influenza vaccine (LAIV4).

The CDC does not express a preference for any flu vaccine over another.

The CDC’s Director Robert Redfield recently said ‘that flu and COVID-19 disease combined could exact a heavier toll on Americans than the initial coronavirus outbreak that began this winter.’

However, the CDC says ‘getting a flu shot does not protect people against COVID-19. And, there are no approved SARS-CoV-2 preventive vaccines.

Public health officials have said vaccination against the flu will be critical to help prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with both influenza and COVID-19 patients.

The most common reason people say for not getting the flu shot was that they (51%) did not believe it was effective. Others reported being considered about side effects (34%) or being concerned about getting influenza from the flu shot (22%). 

One reason for the reluctance among Americans to get the flu shot is that it does not always prevent influenza, in part, is because flu strains continually evolve as they circulate the globe.

This means flu shots are not always a perfect match for the dominant flu strains that actually circulate in any given season, says the CDC.

According to Reuters reporting, flu shot producers are ramping up production to meet this forecasted demand. As an example, Australian vaccine maker CSL Ltd’s Seqirus said demand from customers has increased by 10 percent.

Drugmakers produced nearly 170 million influenza vaccine doses for the 2019-2020 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, according to the CDC. 

The CDC reported there were up to 740,000 hospitalizations and 62,000 related fatalities, including pneumonia, during the 2019-2020 flu season.

As of May 16, 2020, the percent of fatalities due to pneumonia or influenza is decreasing but remains elevated, primarily due to COVID-19, not influenza.

Based on the National Center for Health Statistics mortality surveillance data, 7.3% of the deaths occurring during the week ending May 16, 2020 (week #20) were due to pneumonia and influenza. 

This percentage is above the epidemic threshold of 6.5% for week 20.

And, the number of reported pediatric flu fatalities for the current season are high at 176, with influenza B causing 109 deaths.

Last flu season, only 144 pediatric fatalities related to influenza, with type B identified in just 10 cases, were confirmed by the CDC.

They also said they would increasingly go to pharmacies and less often to a doctor’s office or healthcare centers.

Influenza vaccine news published by Precision Vaccinations.