Flu Season? believe it or Not

Posted on December 29, 2020


Flu activity remains unusually low this year, largely in part to all the restrictions put in place for COVID-19.

Flu vaccines also rolled out earlier this year.

As of late November 2020, 188 million doses of the flu vaccine had been shipped out across the country, according to a new flu vaccination dashboardTrusted Source from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More adults have been vaccinated in pharmacies in 2020 compared to last year’s flu season, but vaccination rates among certain groups — such as non-Hispanic Black adults and children — seem to have dropped off a bit.

Even though flu activity is low and overall vaccination rates are strong, the flu is still out there and could surge at any moment.

Last week, the country reported its first pediatric deathTrusted Source, a child with underlying health issues who experienced complications after contracting an influenza B virus.

“Even though it’s smoldering out there, it could take off at any time,” said Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and a professor in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Flu vaccination rates this year

Over 188 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed so far this year.

That’s a sharp increase from the 169 million doses that had been sent out at this time last year, and 163 million doses that were distributed at this point in 2018.

Schaffner believes most of these doses have been inoculated into people.

“Flu vaccination in the community started earlier this year, as recommended by the CDC, and our community physicians report that vaccine uptake has been higher than usual,” said Dr. Marie-Louise Landry, a Yale Medicine infectious diseases expert and the director of the Yale Clinical Virology Laboratory.

The CDC reported that as of Nov. 21, 44.5 million flu vaccines had been administered in adults in pharmacies so far this year, compared to 30.4 million at the same time in 2019.

Vaccination rates among children, pregnant people, and Hispanic people are in line with the rates reported in 2019.

Vaccination rates show racial disparities

According to the CDCTrusted Source, the vaccination gap is most pronounced in non-Hispanic Black children between the ages of 6 months and 17 years.

Approximately 33 percent of Black children have received the flu shot this year, compared to 44 percent at the same time last year.

Nearly 51 percent of white childrenTrusted Source and 47 percent of Hispanic kids have been vaccinated, which is similar to last year’s vaccination coverage.

The racial disparities reportedTrusted Source in this year’s vaccination rates aren’t new.

In the 2019–2020 flu season, the overall flu vaccination rate for adults was 48 percent.

A closer look at the data shows that 38 percent of Hispanic or Latino adults got vaccinated, plus 41 percent of Black people, and 42 percent of native individuals.

In comparison, 53 percent of white people received the flu shot.

Marginalized communities often have greater difficulty accessing medical care, said Schaffner. There are typically fewer doctors located in the community and lack of transportation may prevent people from seeking preventive care.

There may also be widespread distrustTrusted Source of the medical community, particularly among Black and Hispanic individuals.


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