Though the timing and duration varies, October often marks the start of influenza (flu) season in the United States, with expected peaks in fall and winter months, primarily December and February. The flu is a contagious illness caused by the influenza virus that is estimated to cause between 9.3 million and 49 million illnesses each year. CDC estimates that flu has resulted in between 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 to 61,000 deaths annually since 2010. Vaccination remains the best way to prevent flu illness and associated complications. The flu vaccine is recommended for all individuals, without contraindications, age six months and older. According to data from the 2019-20 flu season, vaccination coverage among children 6 months to 17 years was 63.8%, and vaccination coverage among adults ≥18 years was 48.4%. Though flu vaccination coverage has increased for children and adults over the last two years, it is important to note that apparent racial/ethnic disparities persist which indicate the need for continued work to improve flu vaccine uptake among all Americans.
COVID-19 is still expected to circulate during flu season and therefore receiving the flu vaccine is highly recommended. ICUs, hospital beds, and other valuable medical resources may need to be conserved in part for COVID-19 patients. Uptake of the flu vaccine will lessen the strain on the health care system and keep communities protected, especially those belonging to high risk or vulnerable populations. To facilitate increased flu vaccination coverage, vaccine providers are recommended to offer vaccination during routine patient visits and hospitalizations. It is also recommended that all healthcare workers get vaccinated annually.
Local health departments lead the charge in protecting their communities from flu. As flu vaccination providers, it is paramount for local health departments to be on the frontlines in providing education and outreach, vaccinating communities, and preparing for an influenza pandemic emergency. To assist in local health departments’ efforts, NACCHO is pleased to release two resources updated for the 2020-2021 Flu Season: The NACCHO Influenza Webpage and the School-Located Influenza Vaccination (SLIV) Toolkit.
The updated page contains pertinent information and resources about flu in general from NACCHO, the CDC, and other partners. All information has been updated to reflect 2020-2021 guidelines and recommendations for both flu and COVID-19.
The updated SLIV toolkit has relevant information and practices for conducting mass vaccination clinics. There is also information on mass vaccination clinics in the time of a pandemic, as well as examples from the H1N1 pandemic. Although vaccination is extremely important at this time, community mitigation practices are still recommended. During any vaccination event, PPE, social distancing, and increased sanitizing is recommended.
For additional information or resources, please reach out to NACCHO’s Immunization Program at [email protected].