The 2021-2022 Flu Season and the Continued Importance of Vaccines

Flu shots are safe and accessible
COMMENTARY
September 27, 2021
Senior Vice President, CVS Health and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Caremark

Each year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues a summary that includes statistics from the previous flu season. For 2020-2021, the agency reports flu activity was unusually low, likely due to COVID-19 mitigation measures such as handwashing, masking and physical distancing.https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm

A record number of flu shots were given (193.8 million), and 50 to 55 percent of adults and 58 percent of children were vaccinated against flu last year.Ibid.

While this is excellent news, the agency warns that flu is likely to be more prevalent this year, and that racial and ethnic disparities persist: Minority groups may be at higher risk for developing serious illness resulting from flu.

For the second year in a row, we are facing a flu season amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 and flu are both contagious respiratory diseases caused by viruses. They spread in similar ways, through respiratory droplets or aerosols, and cause similar symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, muscle aches and headaches.https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-vs-flu/art-20490339

Both can lead to serious complications, but flu has been around longer, so doctors know more about how to prevent and treat it.Ibid.

COVID-19 is exponentially more deadly than the flu.Ibid.

2020-2021 # Infected # Deaths

COVID-19

32 million

580,000

Flu

38 million

22,000

Getting an annual flu shot is especially important this year. Due to the current surge of COVID-19 cases and the resulting overtaxing of the health care system, reducing seasonal flu is important to protect vulnerable at-risk populations and preserve health care system and critical infrastructure capacity.https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pandemic-guidance/index.html

The flu vaccine provides protection from the influenza viruses expected to be most common during the upcoming flu season. It is safe to get a flu shot if already vaccinated against COVID-19, and it is safe to get both vaccines at same time.https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2021-2022.htm

The public health burden of influenza is enormous, creating significant morbidity and mortality, as well as a considerable economic burden, estimated at $87 billion annually:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17544181/

Projected lost earnings due to illness and loss of life: $16.3BIbid. 111 million U.S. workdays lost annually to fluhttps://www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-03-17-11.html
Projected lost earnings due to illness and loss of life: $16.3B9
111 million U.S. workdays lost annually to flu10

Flu shots are available now. CVS Caremark offers cost-effective, comprehensive programs to help increase plan member vaccination rates, and to help reduce the burden on the health care system and providers.

Our vaccination programs are available where members are – in their neighborhood. Retail pharmacy vaccinations are safe and affordable, and members can schedule appointments online at a time and place that is convenient for them.

COMMENTARY
September 27, 2021
Senior Vice President, CVS Health and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Caremark

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