FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM AUGUST 20, 2020 • HEALTH • THE QUEENS COURIER 25
Flu season prep, complicated by
COVID-19, starts early this year
BY CARL O’DONNELL/REUTERS
Healthcare providers, including CVS
Health Corp CVS.N ;, are kicking off fl u
vaccinations early, ordering extra shots
and aiming to add tests that check for
both the annual fl u and COVID-19, pharmacy
executives and experts told Reuters.
Flu vaccination for the fall has taken on
increased urgency because of the potential
for serious complications if patients
contract both viruses at once.
Vaccine makers will provide nearly 200
million fl u vaccines to the United States
this year, potentially 20 percent more
than is typical, said LJ Tan, chief strategy
offi cer for the Immunization Action
Coalition, a nonprofi t that promotes vaccination.
CVS expects to more than double the
number of fl u shots it provides to around
18 million people and Walgreens Boots
Alliance Inc WBA.O ; is stockpiling extra
vaccines, the companies told Reuters.
Drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc AZN.L ;
on Th ursday announced its fi rst shipment
of its FluMist vaccine in the U.S. and said
it has increased production of doses in the
U.S. by over 25 percent more than previously
Failure to inoculate for the fl u could
also strain the United States COVID-19
testing capacity, which is still below the
6-10 million daily tests needed, Reuters
“If we can eliminate the dynamic of
people getting symptoms and their fi rst
reaction is ‘is this the seasonal fl u or is
this COVID,’ it can take demand off of
COVID-19 testing,” CVS Chief Executive
Larry Merlo told Reuters.
Merlo added that CVS is working to
obtain tests that screen for both viruses
simultaneously. U.S. regulators approved
a joint COVID-19 and fl u test in July.
Th e same people who are most vulnerable
to risks from COVID-19, such as the
elderly and those with respiratory conditions,
are also at greatest risk for the fl u,
Th e U.S. healthcare system is already
expected to be strained in the fall by a
resurgence in COVID-19. Th e Institute
for Health Metrics and Evaluation is
anticipating an uptick in COVID-19
cases in the coming months, resulting in
around 300,000 total deaths by December,
up from the current fi gure of roughly
160,000, and a nearly 75 percent increase
Th ere is evidence that social distancing
measures for COVID-19 reduce the transmission
rate of the fl u as well, according
to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, meaning that continued
measures in the U.S. could potentially
slow fl u transmission this season.
However, eff orts to inoculate patients
for the fl u could be complicated by the
need to safeguard patients and healthcare
workers from COVID-19.
“If a patient has a fever or other symptoms
associated with illness, they will
be referred to their healthcare provider
and immunizations will be deferred,”
a Walgreens spokeswoman told Reuters.
CVS plans to begin inoculating patients
earlier than usual — possibly by the end
of this month — to get a jump start on
preparing for this year’s fl u season, which
usually starts around October.
However, studies show there is a risk
that getting inoculated against the fl u too
early can leave a patient vulnerable to
contracting the virus later on in winter, if
the shot wears off .
Other physicians are also starting this
month, though it will still take months
to fully distribute all the needed inoculations,
Th e fl u vaccine “comes out over time so
you want to make sure people continue to
seek fl u vaccines” through Th anksgiving
and beyond, Tan said.
FILE PHOTO: A sign advertising the availability of fl u shots is taped onto a door of a Duane Reade in New York, Jan. 14, 2013.