October 13, 2021

NFID 2021 Flu News Conference Panelists

US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, get vaccinated prior to 2021 NFID Influenza/Pneumococcal Disease News Conference.

Representatives from leading public health and medical organizations joined the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) at the 2021 Influenza/Pneumococcal Disease News Conference urging everyone age 6 months and older to get vaccinated against influenza (flu) annually. Flu season is also a great time to stay up to date on pneumococcal vaccination, the experts said, because pneumococcal disease can be a serious complication of flu.

NFID Medical Director William Schaffner, MD, presented new NFID survey data which showed that 44 percent of US adults are unsure or do not plan to get vaccinated against flu during the 2021-2022 flu season. Of further concern, the survey found that nearly 1 in 4 (23 percent) who are at higher risk for flu-related complications said they were not planning to get vaccinated this season. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, presented final flu vaccine coverage data from the 2020-2021 season.

Joining Schaffner and Walensky were Laura E. Riley, MD, obstetrician and gynecologist-in-chief, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Weill Cornell Medicine; Cedric “Jamie” Rutland, MD, CEO of West Coast Lung and COVID-19 medical director, Private Health Management; and NFID President-Elect Patricia (Patsy) A. Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, pediatric nurse practitioner, Children’s Minnesota (retired) and affiliate faculty, School of Nursing, University of Minnesota. Earlier in the week, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and representatives from NFID partner organizations joined the NFID Leading By Example initiative by demonstrating support for annual flu vaccination and sharing vaccination photos on social media.

Flu vaccination is critical for everyone, but it is especially important for populations at higher risk for complications from flu, including pregnant women, children under age 5, adults age 65 years and older, and those with certain chronic health conditions, including diabetes, lung disease, and heart disease.

NFID Medical Director William Schaffner, MD

The news conference drew significant national media coverage, including the following highlights:

Ahead of an Unpredictable Flu Season, Public Health Experts Urge Nation to Sign up for Flu Vaccine: The flu season is notorious for being difficult to predict. However, flu trends from last year and from other parts of the globe can help us make informed estimates. So far, experts are on the fence about whether this year’s flu season may be mild like last year’s, or if it may take a turn for the worse. But experts do agree on one thing; we can do our part by getting vaccinated. … The flu vaccine is not a 100% guarantee that you won’t get the flu, but it can reduce your symptoms, and the likelihood of winding up in the hospital. Source: ABC News

US Health Experts Urge Flu Vaccination to Avoid ‘Twindemic’: The US is gearing up in case of a bad flu season on top of the continuing COVID-19 crisis, with a plea to get vaccinated against both. “I get it: We are all tired of talking about vaccines,” said Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But “it is doubly important this year” to get your flu vaccine, added Dr. Walensky, who got her own vaccination just as she has every year since she was a medical student in 1995. … Officials are worried because a different respiratory virus, named RSV, that usually attacks young children in the winter instead roared back last summer as soon as people started dropping their masks. “Is that a harbinger of a worse influenza season? We don’t know, but we certainly don’t want a ‘twindemic,’ both COVID-19 and influenza,” said William Schaffner, MD, of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Source: AP News

NFID 2020-2021 Flu Season Survey Results Show Pregnant Women Remain Unprotected: According to new survey data from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), 44 percent of US adults are unsure or do not plan to get the flu vaccine during the 2021-2022 flu season. The results also showed nearly 1 in 4 (23%) of people at high risk for flu-related complications, such as pregnant women, did not plan to get vaccinated. Representatives from NFID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a press conference to discuss the findings and encourage everyone 6 months and older to receive the annual flu vaccine. “Pregnant women are at risk for severe influenza infection, which means a greater risk for hospitalization, ICU admission, and death,” said Laura E. Riley, MD, obstetrician and gynecologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “Nearly half of pregnant women and their infants remain unprotected against the flu,” Dr. Riley said. Data show that flu vaccine coverage was 55 percent among pregnant women in 2020-2021, similar to the prior season. Source: Contemporary OB/GYN

The Flu Could Come Roaring Back This Fall. Here’s Why: Experts are warning that this flu season could be a bad one … Only about 42 percent of adults ages 18 to 49 with chronic conditions that increase their risk of flu complications—such as diabetes, asthma, and chronic lung or heart disease—received a flu vaccine last year, according to NFID. According to panelist Cedric “Jamie” Rutland, MD, CEO of West Coast Lung, influenza can cause widespread inflammation in the body, which can increase people’s risk of heart attack and stroke even after they have recovered from the flu. “That inflammation ramps up across the body, and those individuals do have a higher risk of having myocardial infarction in the subsequent weeks,” Rutland said. Source: Healthline

The CDC Urges Flu Shots to Ease Strain on Pandemic-Stretched Hospitals: Lockdowns helped keep last year’s flu season historically mild in both the US and around the world, but US officials fear a more serious season this fall and winter, with unmasked people out and about far more, and nearly half of adults in a new survey saying they are unlikely to get a flu vaccine. At a news briefing to release the survey data, top health experts said they were particularly concerned that, with the coronavirus still coursing around the country, nearly one in four people at higher risk for flu-related complications indicated they did not intend to get the flu vaccine. … The survey was commissioned by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, a nonprofit organization. Its medical director, William Schaffner, MD, said that overall vulnerability to flu could be higher this year, “with relaxed COVID-19 mitigation strategies, increased travel, and the reopening of schools.” Source: The New York Times

More Than 40% of US Adults May Not Get a Flu Vaccine This Year. That Could Spell Trouble during COVID-19: More than 4 in 10 US adults are not sure about or are not planning on getting a flu vaccine this year, a new survey found, in a worrying trend public health experts say could exacerbate a worse-than-average flu season. Last year’s worries around a “twindemic” of influenza and COVID-19 overwhelming hospitals around the nation luckily went unfounded after a historically mild flu season. But with COVID-19 vaccinations affording many people a return to more “normal” lives of socialization and in-person work during flu season, hospitals and health systems could be strained in parts of the country where vaccination against both viruses remains low, experts say. “We’re particularly concerned because COVID-19 is out there,” said William Schaffner, MD, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “Flu will come back this year. And we don’t want to further stress our already very stressed healthcare system.” Source: USA Today

NFID #FightFlu social media top tweets include:

Keep the Momentum Going: #FightFlu and #PreventPneumo

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