The Exchange

Commentary and Observations from
the Medical Front Lines

Influenza Forecast 2021-2022

Influenza Forecast 2021-2022

Influenza activity for the 2020-2021 season was extremely low, due to several factors. As last year's flu season occurred during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, several important preventive measures were in place to help "slow the spread" of the coronavirus, and not surprisingly, these measures prevented widespread influenza in the US. These measures included masking; social distancing; avoiding large crowds—especially indoors—spending more time outdoors; self-monitoring for symptoms (with home isolation when symptomatic); quarantines when exposed to COVID-19; diligent handwashing and sanitizer use; and avoiding touching the face, eyes, and nose with unclean hands. Some of these measures were enforced by local authorities across the US. In addition to these infection control measures, flu vaccines were strongly encouraged (and mandated for healthcare workers and some other groups) and readily available to all eligible people in the US.

What can we expect for this influenza season? The CDC cautions that reduced population immunity to influenza since March 2020 (when COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were implemented) may create an early and severe flu season in 2021-2022. As usual, all eligible people are encouraged to get a flu vaccine, and the best time for that vaccine is typically in September or October. Based on global epidemiologic surveillance data, the flu vaccine components were updated for this season and all vaccines are now quadrivalent.

Importantly, an influenza vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine can be given at the same time. New vaccine delivery models of care were rolled out in the US for ease of administration and improved access during the COVID-19 pandemic, including drive-through sites, local pharmacy chain distribution, and mobile vans. These vaccine delivery models will continue through the flu season, and many will be distributing both vaccines.

The goal is improved protection of our population through widespread vaccination. Let's continue to promote these vaccines to our patients and help end this pandemic.


Filed under: Infectious Diseases, Public Health

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