By Tcherika Petit-Frere
Howard University News Service
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging people to get the flu vaccine by the end of October given a steady increase in cases early in the season.
The number of positive flu cases has reached 4,782 since Oct. 2, the CDC reports. This includes 4,610 positive cases of Influenza A and 172 positive cases of Influenza B. By comparison, the positivity rate for the 2020-2021 flu season was 0.2%, meaning 1,675 people tested positive.
The CDC believes that flu rates were low last season because of the precautions people have taken to curb the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing face masks, social distancing by staying home and online schooling.
“Over the past two years, we’ve seen some worrisome drops in flu vaccination coverage, especially in some groups of people who are at the highest risk of developing serious flu illness,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, in a recent press conference with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
The CDC predicts that this year’s flu season will be worse due to many things, but mainly because of low flu vaccination rates these past two years and the slow increase in COVID-19 case. Officials hope to avoid the chance of people suffering from possible respiratory issues from COVID-19 and the flu.
“U.S. flu cases typically mirror Argentina and Australia’s cases in terms of volume and severity, and they’re often used as leading indicators for the U.S. flu season,” said Yoandree Pierre-Jacques, CVS Pharmacy district leader in the Washington area. “Both countries experienced a strong start to flu season this year, with higher numbers of cases than in 2019, which was a strong flu season across all three countries.”
“With Argentina and Australia peaking earlier and at higher volumes, as well as the continued relaxation of COVID-19 mitigation measures, some experts think the U.S. could experience that as well, especially as colder weather pushes more people indoors,” Pierre-Jacques said.
For the 2022-2023 flu season, the CDC has confirmed that 91.2 million doses of flu vaccines have been distributed around the United States. Flu vaccine manufacturers hope to supply around 173.5 million to 183.5 million doses in the U.S., according to the CDC. This season’s flu vaccine distribution is significantly lower than the 2020-2021 season, where 193.8 million flu vaccines were distributed; the CDC reports that it is the highest they have received in a single flu season.
“We have seen a decline in positivity rates during the past two years following the widespread adoption of community measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission,” Pierre-Jacques said. “We’ve seen a decline in flu cases in general, which can be attributed, at least in part, to an increased focus on personal hygiene, mask wearing and less time spent in public places.”
With the possibility that the upcoming flu season could be a rocky one, people are undecided if they will get the flu vaccine this year.
“Probably not. I have not really thought about getting it this year,” said Ramie Washington, a sophomore fashion design major at Howard University. “Ever since COVID-19, I have been more concerned about making sure I am up to date with those vaccinations.”
Sadiya Quetti-Goodson, a sophomore film major at Howard, had a flu vaccination before coming to the university. “However, I don’t usually get it because I have not had a history of getting sick from the flu or catching it at all.”
With the low flu vaccination rates these past two years and positive COVID-19 cases, the CDC hopes that people get vaccinated preferably by the end of the month.
“The CDC suggests it’s best to get vaccinated early in the fall, before flu begins spreading in your community … keeping in mind that it takes about two weeks to develop optimal protection after getting vaccinated,” Pierre-Jacques said.
Tcherika Petit-Frere is a reporter for HUNewsService.com.