On August 21, 2020, the CDC issued a report on Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines. This report includes guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the 2020-21 flu season.
The report begins with a reminder of the success of influenza vaccination: “During the six influenza seasons from 2010–11 through 2015–16, influenza vaccination prevented an estimated 1.6–6.7 million illnesses, 790,000–3.1 million outpatient medical visits, 39,000–87,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000–10,000 respiratory and circulatory deaths each season in the United States.” Flu vaccination is more important than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Minimizing flu-related medical visits and hospitalizations is key to alleviating stress on the U.S. healthcare system.
The CDC report provides an update on this year’s influenza immunization composition and on two newly licensed vaccinations, both for use in persons 65 and older. The most notable recommendation in the report concerns the timing of vaccine administration. Vaccination should be offered by the end of October. For children requiring two doses, the second dose should be administered by the end of October. Early vaccination (in July or August) is not recommended due to potential waning immunity, especially in older adults.
Though optimal timing is early in the season, vaccination should continue as long as influenza viruses are circulating in the community. “Although vaccination by the end of October is recommended, vaccine administered in December or later, even if influenza activity has already begun, might be beneficial in most influenza seasons.”
COVID-19 creates complications for vaccination programs due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements. This may necessitate beginning vaccination campaigns earlier. However, healthcare providers must balance this against the potential for waning immunity in adults 65 and older.
For more information on influenza vaccination and vaccination during COVID, visit the following resources: