While many are focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic and its serious global and local impacts, we should not ignore the concurrent threat of seasonal influenza.
According to the US CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), there were an estimated 39 million cases of influenza illness; 400,000 hospitalizations and 24,000 deaths have been linked to influenza during the 2019-2020 season. Flu season in the US is still going strong and could actually last through late May.
Australia and other countries of the south are heading for similar trouble as the oncoming flu season could add further strain to an already overwhelmed health system.
There are currently no licensed vaccines or therapeutics for COVID-19. In contrast, vaccines are available for influenza and remain the most effective way to protect against the infection and related life-threating complications. In line with the most recent WHO guidance for immunization activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are advised for people who are at greatest risk of developing respiratory illness, including health workers, older adults, and pregnant women.
Australia is proactive in its action to advance the annual flu vaccination period to April, which usually started from May. Health authorities are urging Australians to have their flu shot as soon as possible amid concerns that influenza and COVID-19 can be a quite deadly combination.
"This year, because we have a vulnerable population from COVID-19, it's super important that those people get protected from the normal flu”, says Dr Antonio DiDio, the Australian Medical Association ACT branch president.
However, visiting vaccination clinics at a time of pandemic might be problematic for people at risk. Contact IFA expert Prof. Ross Andrews for best practice for immunizations in the context of COVID-19, who used to be the Chair of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), Australia's peak ministerial immunisation advisory committee.
Also consider register for IFA “Vaccines4Life Summit” and the IFA Presidential Symposium on Vaccination at www.ifa2021.ngo. You will have opportunity to network with professionals from various fields, understand the burden of vaccine preventable diseases, and share proven best practices and resources to catalyze action.