October is the best time for flu vaccinations, and the United States and Europe are preparing for what experts hope is in high demand as countries seek to avoid a “twindemic” with COVID-19.
“There is considerable concern when we enter the fall and winter months and flu season that we will have this terrible overlap” of flu and coronavirus, “Dr. Anthony Fauci of the US National Institutes of Health said Thursday. flu earlier this week.
A record number of flu vaccines are on the way, between 194 million and 198 million in the United States alone ̵
Still, there’s no way to know how many people will be looking for pictures this year, and sometimes some people find drugstores or clinics temporarily in stock.
Be patient: The flu vaccine is delivered gradually. So far, less than half have been distributed, and CDC and manufacturers say more are in the process of being transported.
“This year, I think everyone wants to get the vaccine, and maybe they want it sooner than usual,” Dr. Daniel Jernigan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Associated Press. “If you can’t get vaccinated now, don’t be disappointed,” but keep trying.
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Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, which delivers nearly 250 million doses worldwide, including 80 million to the United States, says shipments are on wheels in November.
Vaccine maker Seqirus is investigating whether it could squeeze “a limited number of extra doses” to meet high demand, said spokeswoman Polina Miklusz.
The preparation of an influenza vaccine takes a long time. Once production is over for the year, countries can’t just order more – striving for stressful balancing, as they anticipate how many people will roll up their sleeves.
Germany usually buys 18 to 19 million doses, and this year ordered more. As German Health Minister Jens Spahn put it: “If we can achieve such a high level of flu vaccination together that all 26 million doses are actually used, then I would be a very happy health minister.”
Spain bought additional doses in the hope of vaccinating many more older adults and pregnant women than usual, along with key workers in health facilities and nursing homes.
In contrast, Poland, which had 100,000 doses unused last year, did not expect much demand this fall and is looking for more.
The good news: The same precautions that help stop the spread of the coronavirus – wearing masks, avoiding crowds, washing your hands and keeping your distance – can also help block the flu.
Winter has just ended in the southern hemisphere, and countries such as South Africa, Australia, Argentina and Chile have barely diagnosed the flu, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions combined with a big boost for flu vaccinations.
Because the coronavirus is still circulating and the cold weather comes just as more schools and businesses open, there is no guarantee that countries in the Northern Hemisphere will be lucky with the flu.
“We don’t know how much flu – but there will be flu,” predicts Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
The flu vaccine only protects against the flu, not the coronavirus. And while its effectiveness varies from year to year, people vaccinated against the flu do not get as sick as they avoid pneumonia, hospitalization and death, Schaffner said.
The CDC estimates that the flu hospitalized 400,000 Americans and killed 22,000 last year.
Adding the flu to the victims of COVID-19 – which has killed more than 1 million people worldwide, including more than 206,000 Americans – would further strain hospitals. Both the flu and the coronavirus have similar symptoms and even if they are mild, Schaffner warned of confusion as people seek tests to find out what disease they have and if anyone who has been around should be quarantined.
“Take the flu out of the equation this fall,” Jernigan advised.
Who needs a flu vaccine?
The United States recommends it for anyone starting at 6 months of age. But the flu is most dangerous for people over the age of 65, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions such as heart disease, asthma and even diabetes.
Most Americans with insurance can get it at no extra charge, and there are different types to choose from: Regular photos, two types of photos that aim to give older adults a little extra protection, and a nasal spray.
The CDC does not recommend one above the other. “If you can’t find your favorite type, we ask people not to shop and wait forever,” Jernigan said. “The best vaccine you can get is the vaccine that is available to you.”
This year, the CDC wants countries to increase flu vaccinations among blacks and Spaniards, who are less likely to get shot than whites and are also at additional risk of COVID-19. Some countries also carry out flu vaccinations and outdoor clinics to avoid crowds.
At the same time, they are immunized against the flu, the elderly and people with chronic diseases should also ask for a vaccine against a type of pneumonia, which is a common complication, US officials have called.
In much of Europe, those at high risk are given priority. France has ordered 30% more flu vaccine than last year, with the first photos at high risk as inoculations begin later this month.
In Italy, doctors and pharmacists have expressed concerns about supplies, as the health ministry is negotiating with vaccine manufacturers to ensure that anyone who wants the vaccine can get it. Italy has also lowered the threshold – from 65 to 60 – for receiving a free flu vaccine.
The British Ministry of Health expects sufficient doses for almost half of the population, but warns that phased deliveries could mean that some doctors and pharmacies will receive photos later in the autumn. The UK usually offers free flu vaccines to adults, pregnant women and some other risk groups and is discussing whether others should qualify for a free shot this year.
The World Health Organization said last week that some countries are struggling to make sure they have enough flu vaccine. The WHO has encouraged all countries concerned about shortages to give priority to health workers and older adults.