Flu vaccine manufacturers are gearing up to ship out a record number of shots this year, CNBC reports.
As Americans wait for a COVID-19 vaccine, the four flu-shot makers say they plan to provide 200 million doses to the U.S. this year.
According to CNBC, the number of flu shots that will be available this year is up 15% from last flu season.
“Though we don’t yet have a vaccine for COVID, we do have a tool to prevent influenza,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a recent podcast interview.
According to the CDC, less than half of American adults and about 60% of kids get an annual flu shot.
Public health officials are urging people to get a flu shot this year to help take the burden off of hospitals that are inundated by coronavirus patients.
“The last thing we want on top of that now is to have beds that could go to COVID patients be used for influenza patients, ventilators that may be needed for COVID patients now have to be also diverted to influenza,” Dr. Jose Romero, a pediatric infection diseases specialist and interim director of the Arkansas Department of Health told CNBC.
CDC data shows that between 9 and 45 million become sick with the flu each year. The flu causes at least 140,000 hospitalizations and leads to 12,000 to 61,000 deaths.
Even though the flu shot may not protect a person from contracting the illness completely, experts say it will help lead to a milder sickness, which can help hospitals.
“So while we may get a mild case of influenza, there’ll be less of the severe cases of influenza that result in office visits that can overwhelm a doctor’s office or in hospitalizations,” Dr. Leonard Friedland, vice president and director of scientific affairs and public health for GlaxoSmithKline vaccines told CNBC.
Romero is encouraging people to get a flu vaccine so they don’t get coronavirus and the flu.
“That’s another reason for getting the flu vaccine this year,” Romero said. “You don’t want to get COVID on top of flu or flu on top of COVID. Because we don’t know what the clinical manifestations will be. We can only surmise or guess that they could be additive and it could be detrimental.”
Elaine O’Hara, head of North America commercial operations for Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines unit of French drugmaker Sanofi said demand for flu shots has been “tremendous” ahead of flu season.
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