Health Care

CDC director urging flu shots ahead of potentially ‘severe’ season

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky urged Americans aged six months and older to get their flu shots as health officials prepare for a potentially “severe” flu season.

The CDC is preparing for the return of the flu after last year saw a “near absence” of it, Walensky said as she advocated for the vaccine during a National Foundation for Infectious Disease (NFID) news conference on Thursday.

The low levels of flu last year, likely due to COVID-19 prevention measures, could contribute to a worse season this year, public health experts have said. 

“Because of so little disease last year, population immunity is likely lower, putting us all at increased risk for disease this year especially among those most vulnerable, including our children,” Walensky said. 

“This is why it is doubly important this year that we build up community immunity with vaccination as we head into the fall and winter,” she added. 

Currently, the U.S. is on track to match last season when 52 percent of those older than six months for the flu shot, she said.

An NFID survey released Thursday found 44 percent of adults are not sure or don’t plan to get a flu shot this season, and almost a quarter of adults at higher risk said they did not intend to get the flu vaccination.

Although flu vaccinations among adults increased between last season and the 2019-2020 season, Walensky expressed concern about a 5 percent drop in flu shots among children saying flu “can be especially dangerous for children.”

“I get it. We are all tired about talking about vaccines,” she said. “I get it that we are all doing our best to protect our health and the health of our families. I also want to make sure we all get it, that we all get how serious flu illness can be and get how important a flu vaccine is to protect us this season.”

The CDC director’s as hospitals in some areas of the country are already overwhelmed with patients — and bracing for more due to the flu. The summer saw a surge of hospitalizations for respiratory infections called RSV that put further strain on hospitals caring for an influx of COVID-19 patients. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and the risk of both flu and COVID-19 circulating could put additional strain on hospitals and frontline healthcare professionals,” Walensky said in a press release. 

Data from the Department of Health and Human Services indicates about 78 percent of hospital beds and intensive care unit beds are in use across the country. Idaho and Alaska both instituted crisis standards of care to help ration resources in overwhelmed hospitals.

Tags CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flu Flu season flu shot flu vaccine Rochelle Walensky Vaccines

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