APhA coronavirus watch: What we do and don’t know about flu

On July 6, a member of the Pharmacy Staff for COVID-19 Support Facebook community posed a question to their peers: “What is your prediction for this coming flu vaccination season?”

Most indicated they expected increased demand. “I had people asking for [flu shots] in May and June. I’ve never seen so many people upset that they can’t get flu shots until mid-August,” one pharmacy staff member responded. “Normally it’s like pulling teeth to get people to get one.”

Another community member reported the chain they work for is aiming to deliver double the number of shots it did last year—18 million versus 9 million. Others said their district leaders have tripled pharmacists’ goals over last season.

“I think most people will be looking for any kind of protection against anything,” a comment read. “It’s going to be insane,” read another. One poster said their patients are asking about the shingles vaccine as well as flu.

A May 2020 Reuters/Ipsos poll backs them up. About 60% of the 4,428 respondents said they planned to get the flu shot this year. In any given year, fewer than half of American adults get the immunization.

CDC’s influenza vaccination planning for the coming season includes maximizing supply, outreach to those at increased risk, additional infection prevention and control for providers and patients, considerations of potential social distancing needs, aligning flu messaging with COVID-19 messaging, and tailoring communication to communities of color that efforts have not traditionally been effective in reaching. The agency is working with vaccine manufacturers to ensure supply is higher than usual.

CDC recognizes the need to provide guidance and clarification for immunizers, said Ram Koppaka, MD, PhD, of the CDC Immunization Services Division. “We understand that the guidance will inform planning that must begin now if vaccination is to occur in a safe manner in the fall.”

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) notes in its recent updates that the unpredictable nature of influenza makes it difficult to know when the season will peak or decline, and the ideal timing is usually an educated guess.

Evidence has shown that the immunization can wane in effectiveness over the course of the season, particularly for older adults. Although demand for flu shots is already picking up, ACIP still says July and August are too early in most seasons—especially for older adults—but that shots should be administered by the end of October.

For the full article, please visit www.pharmacytoday.org for the August 2020 issue of Pharmacy Today.