Even though flu season doesn’t begin until the fall, major flu vaccine manufacturers say they plan to boost production by about 10 percent, to about 189 million doses, up from 170 million doses last year, to ensure enough doses exist for an anticipated surge in people seeking flu shots.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken the rare step of buying 7 million doses directly from manufacturers to be distributed to states for adult vaccination, CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview. “This is a big move,” he said.
Getting a flu shot does not protect against the coronavirus, but disease experts said reducing episodes of flu could prove pivotal in freeing up space in hospitals and medical offices to deal with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Even as President Trump and other White House officials downplay the pandemic threat this fall, the flu preparations underscore the alarm among public health officials, clinicians, advocacy groups and industry executives about the additional threat from the coronavirus. The unprecedented convergence of two highly contagious respiratory viruses could happen in the winter, with each pathogen causing life-threatening illness and death.
“We want to take flu off the table, in every way possible, make flu a non-factor,” said LJ Tan, chief strategy officer of the Immunization Action Coalition.