The approaching influenza season threatens to overwhelm hospitals swamped by COVID-19 patients, prompting increased efforts to get people vaccinated against influenza.
The approaching influenza season threatens to overwhelm hospitals swamped by COVID-19 patients, prompting increased efforts to get people vaccinated against influenza. To reduce the pressure, drugmakers including AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and Sanofi are making approximately 200 million influenza vaccine doses this year for shipment to doctors, hospitals and pharmacies, up 13% from last year and a record, according to CDC. The federal government is also launching a campaign encouraging people to get the seasonal influenza vaccine, while drugmakers and pharmacies explore new measures to ensure more people get vaccinated, such as offering influenza vaccination curbside. AstraZeneca is helping doctors set up mobile influenza clinics, while it makes about 8 million doses of its nasal spray influenza vaccine, said Fred Peruggia, the drugmaker’s head of marketing for respiratory biologics and vaccines. Production problems limited output last year, he said, to only about 700,000 doses. Industry and health officials express optimism the additional supplies will get used up because COVID-19 has increased awareness of taking steps to prevent disease. However, the fear of contracting the coronavirus has kept many people away from doctors’ offices. Childhood immunization rates in the United States fell during the pandemic. Health and industry officials also worry whether recently unemployed Americans will seek vaccinations after losing health insurance.