Washington, DC, October 13, 2021 —The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the voice of the country’s nearly 3,000 local health departments, has issued a new report, entitled Collaboration to Address Influenza Among Older Adults, to highlight lessons learned from the COVID-19 vaccination effort and how those can inform efforts to improve vaccination rates for influenza, particularly amongst older Americans.
As the nation continues to address the COVID-19 pandemic and enters another influenza season, it is imperative that public health partners work diligently to vaccinate older adults for the 2021-2022 influenza season, as well as consider the collective COVID-19 experience, utilize lessons learned, capitalize on opportunities to vaccinate, and overcome obstacles that have arisen from living through a pandemic.
The report highlights possible challenges to influenza vaccination for the 2021-2022 season, including:
- Lower rates of flu last season will not inspire seniors to get the flu vaccine before the 2021–2022 season;
- There is less urgency because many do not perceive flu as a serious threat relative to the seriousness of COVID-19;
- There is likely an increased susceptibility to flu this year as people emerge from lockdown;
- Many human and financial resources were taken up by COVID-19 campaign efforts, leaving fewer resources for flu campaigns and outreach;
- The efficacy of the flu vaccine is lower than the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, which might diminish confidence now that efficacy is more widely understood; and
- No flu vaccination incentives are available that can compare to the COVID-19 vaccine incentives.
- Institutionalize and adapt COVID-19 programs that can jointly serve influenza vaccination. Fund vaccine infrastructure to capitalize on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report’s actional recommendations address four main themes – policy, access, data and reporting, and communications. Underpinning each of these themes was a focus on equity and partnerships to implement the recommendations and reach goals of equitable access to and uptake of influenza vaccine, including:
- Make it easy for people: provide transportation, judicious use of technology, and address language and literacy barriers.
- Move from crisis-born relationships to long-term partnerships in public health.
- Increase interoperability of adult immunization registries.
- Create and distribute effective messaging.
The report is the culmination of a NACCHO-led convening of more than 50 public health experts. On June 28, 2021, NACCHO hosted leaders representing state and local health departments, non-profits, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, universities, and private industry sectors during a virtual roundtable discussion. Participants met to identify the best approaches and strategies for ensuring influenza vaccination in individuals 65 years of age and older, as well as to discuss insights, concerns, and recommendations regarding possible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to and impacts influenza vaccinations.
To learn more about the NACCHO National Stakeholder Consultation Meeting and recommendations to address influenza vaccination among older adults, access the full report – Collaboration to Address Influenza Among Older Adults. Visit NACCHO’s Essential Elements blog to access an article further highlighting this meeting.
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local governmental health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities. For more information about NACCHO, please visit www.naccho.org.