Lockdowns helped keep last year's flu season historically mild in both the US and around the world, but US officials fear a more serious season this fall and winter with a lot more unmasked people on the go and almost the Half of adults in a new poll say they are unlikely to get a flu shot.
Speaking at a press conference to launch the survey data Thursday morning, top health experts said they were particularly concerned that almost one in four people at higher risk of flu-related complications said they did not intend to, as the coronavirus is still circulating around the country Get flu vaccine.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that while experts did not yet know how badly the flu would hit the United States this fall, other respiratory infections had already returned, including RSV, one common cause of pneumonia and bronchitis in babies and a serious threat to older adults. The CDC's latest weekly flu report shows that only one state, Wyoming, had reached "moderate" levels of flu cases.
With the flu almost non-existent last year, Dr. Walensky stated that people did not have the protective immunity they might have if they got sick and she called for all people 6 months and older to be vaccinated. "The Covid-19 pandemic is not over yet, and the risk of both flu and Covid-19 floating around could put an additional burden on hospitals and frontline health professionals," she said.
The survey was commissioned by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, a nonprofit organization. The medical director, Dr. William Schaffner said the general susceptibility to flu could be higher this year "with relaxed strategies to contain Covid-19, increased travel and reopening of schools".
For the survey, more than 1,110 respondents 18 years and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia answered questions about attitudes about the flu in mid-August; Covid19; Pneumococcal disease, which can cause pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis; and vaccination intentions.
The responses revealed a tension between beliefs about the value of flu vaccination and the intention to get a vaccination: 61 percent of respondents agreed that vaccination is the best protection against the flu, 44 percent said they were either not sure if they would get one or didn't intend to.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has had a positive effect on the Behaviors that might help reduce the effects of the flu. Almost half of those surveyed said they were more likely to stay home from work or school because of the pandemic, and 54 percent said they would wear a mask at least sometimes during the flu season.
But there were racial differences: 73 percent of black respondents and 62 percent of Latinos said they wear a mask during flu season, compared with just 46 percent of white respondents. Black and Latino respondents were also more likely to be concerned about being infected with Covid and flu at the same time than white respondents.
Dr. Walensky said the flu vaccination rate had remained constant nationwide at around 52 percent the year before, but criticized an "inequality gap" in flu vaccination: 56 percent for whites versus 43 percent for blacks.
Patsy Stinchfield, a nurse with Children’s Minnesota, a pediatric health care system, and president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Foundation, said it was safe for people to get flu and Covid vaccinations – including boosters – at the same time.
Dr. Walensky also warned of a drop in flu vaccination rates among young children from 64 percent in the previous year to 59 percent. In the 2019-2020 season, 199 children died of the flu, of which around 80 percent were not vaccinated.