CDC reports record flu vaccine distribution

CDC reports record flu vaccine distribution
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Approximately 188 million doses of the flu vaccine have been distributed throughout the U.S., the most ever during a single influenza season, according to data published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC noted that the country hit the record late last month, with an estimated 44.5 million adult flu vaccinations administered in pharmacies by Nov. 21, a 46 percent increase from 2019. 

However, officials noted the number of adult flu vaccinations administered in medical offices one week earlier declined by 8 percent, from 27.4 million in 2019 to 25.3 million in 2020. 

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The CDC added that it is not clear from the data whether the sharp increase in adults receiving vaccinations at pharmacies is due to a larger trend of more adults getting vaccinated this season, or whether more adults are opting for pharmacies due to convenience and accessibility.

This comes following a study released last week from NORC at the University of Chicago that found that only 49 percent of respondents had been vaccinated for the flu as of early November, with 35 percent of adults saying in the survey that they did not plan on getting a flu vaccine this season.  

Despite these findings, this flu season has been significantly less active than in years past, with the CDC reporting that only 429 people have tested positive for the flu since Sept. 27. 

In the 2018-19 influenza season, an estimated 34,000 people died from the flu. 

Based on National Center for Health Statistics mortality surveillance data on Dec. 3, 12.8 percent of deaths during the week ending Nov. 28 were due to pneumonia, influenza and COVID-19. While the CDC noted that this was above the epidemic threshold of 6.4 percent, much of the increase in mortality was attributed to COVID-19 rather than the flu. 

The CDC has also not recorded any influenza-related deaths among children so far during the 2020-21 season. 

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However, the CDC still recommends that Americans get a flu vaccination, adding in Wednesday's report that there should be more urgency to do so now amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“In the context of the ongoing pandemic, flu vaccination is considered more important than ever to help ensure that influenza illnesses and hospitalizations do not further tax an already overburdened health care system,” the CDC wrote. 

This comes as companies developing COVID-19 vaccines appear to be making progress toward receiving emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, although experts predict that they will likely not be widely available to the public until the spring or summer.

On Wednesday, Operation Warp Speed's chief operating officer Gen. Gustave Perna told reporters that the government will begin distributing 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine if it is cleared for emergency use. 

Federal officials are also putting together a stockpile of half a million doses “so that we make sure that in case we need to react to some situation we had some reserves," Perna added.