Flu could strain health system already burdened by COVID-19

But Vasudevan and others fear there could be fewer people seeking vaccinations this year as more people are skipping routine care. Even in a normal year, only half of the adult population gets a flu vaccine. During the 2018-19 season, around 45 percent of adults got flu shots, according to the CDC. A year earlier, it was just 39 percent.

Many employees get their flu shot at their work offices. But this year with more people working from home, it creates one more potential step that could get in the way of being vaccinated.

Mark McClellan, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said that more distribution methods will be needed in order for flu vaccine rates to go up. He said that this year’s flu vaccination campaign will also be an important test of how effectively the U.S. can vaccinate against COVID-19 once a vaccine is available, likely later this year and on a more widespread basis next year.

“If we can get vaccination right for flu, that’s a great practice, great warmup for doing an effective job on the challenges ahead with a COVID vaccine,” McClellan, who now leads the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, said last week.

It will also take better public health messaging if public health leaders want more people vaccinated this year, says Daniel Salmon, director of Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Vaccine Safety.

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