CLOSINGS: View Closings

High demand for flu shots? Experts hope to avoid 'twindemic'

Health officials are urging Americans to seek a flu vaccine this month, hoping to avoid twin epidemics as COVID-19 continues to circulate.

Posted: Oct 1, 2020 2:59 PM

October is prime time for flu vaccinations, and the U.S. and Europe are gearing up for what experts hope is high demand as countries seek to avoid a “twindemic” with COVID-19.

“There's considerable concern as we enter the fall and winter months and into the flu season that we'll have that dreaded overlap" of flu and the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health said Thursday. He got his own flu shot earlier this week.

A record number of flu vaccine doses are on the way, between 194 million and 198 million for the U.S. alone -- seemingly plenty considering last year just under half of adults got vaccinated and there usually are leftovers.

Still, there’s no way to know how many will seek shots this year and some people occasionally are finding drugstores or clinics temporarily out of stock.

Be patient: Flu vaccine ships gradually. Less than half has been distributed so far, and the CDC and manufacturers say more is in transit.

“This year I think everyone is wanting to get their vaccine and maybe wanting it earlier than usual,” Dr. Daniel Jernigan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told The Associated Press. “If you’re not able to get your vaccination now, don’t get frustrated” but keep trying.

Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, which is supplying nearly 250 million doses worldwide including 80 million for the U.S., says it has shipments staggered into November.

Vaccine maker Seqirus is exploring if it could squeeze out “a limited number of additional doses" to meet high demand, said spokeswoman Polina Miklush.

Brewing flu vaccine is time-consuming. Once production ends for the year, countries can’t simply order more -- making for a stressful balancing act as they guess how many people will roll up their sleeves.

Germany usually buys 18 million to 19 million doses, and this year ordered more. As German Health Minister Jens Spahn put it: “If we manage, together, to get the flu vaccination rate so high that all 26 million doses are actually used, then I’d be a very happy health minister.”

Spain purchased extra doses in hopes of vaccinating far more older adults and pregnant women than usual, along with key workers in health facilities and nursing homes.

In contrast, Poland, which last year had 100,000 doses go unused, didn't anticipate this fall's high demand and is seeking more.

The good news: The same precautions that help stop spread of the coronavirus -- wearing masks, avoiding crowds, washing your hands and keeping your distance -- can help block influenza, too.

Winter just ended in the Southern Hemisphere and countries like South Africa, Australia, Argentina and Chile diagnosed hardly any flu thanks to COVID-19 restrictions combined with a big push for influenza vaccinations.

With the coronavirus still circulating and cold weather coming just as more schools and businesses reopen, there’s no guarantee that countries in the Northern Hemisphere will be as lucky with flu.

“How much flu, we don’t know -- but there will be flu,” predicted Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

A flu vaccine only protects against influenza, not the coronavirus. And while its effectiveness varies from year to year, people vaccinated against flu don’t get as sick, avoiding pneumonia, hospitalization and death, Schaffner said.

The CDC estimated that last year the flu hospitalized 400,000 Americans and killed 22,000.

Adding flu to the toll of COVID-19 -- which has killed more than 1 million people worldwide including more than 206,000 Americans -- would further strain hospitals. Both flu and the coronavirus have similar symptoms and even if they’re mild, Schaffner warned of confusion as people seek testing to learn which illness they have and if anyone they’ve been around needs to quarantine.

“Take flu out of the equation this fall,” Jernigan advised.

Who needs flu vaccine? The U.S. recommends it for everyone starting at 6 months of age. But flu is most dangerous for people over age 65, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions such as heart disease, asthma, even diabetes.

Most Americans with insurance can get it without a co-pay, and there are different kinds to choose from: Regular shots, two types of shots that aim to give older adults a little extra protection, and a nasal spray.

The CDC doesn’t recommend one over another. If you can’t find your preferred type, “we ask people not to shop around and wait forever,” Jernigan said. “The best vaccine to get is the vaccine that’s available to you.”

The CDC this year wants states to increase flu vaccinations among Blacks and Hispanics, who are less likely to get a shot than whites and also are at extra risk from COVID-19. Some states also are holding drive-thru flu vaccinations and outdoor clinics to avoid crowds.

And at the same time they get immunized against flu, older adults and people with chronic illnesses also should ask about getting a vaccine against a type of pneumonia that is a frequent complication, U.S. officials urged.

In much of Europe, those at high risk get prioritized. France has ordered 30% more flu vaccine than last year, with first shots given to the high risk as inoculations begin later this month.

In Italy, doctors and pharmacists have expressed concern about the supply, as the health ministry conducts negotiations with vaccine producers to ensure everyone who wants the vaccine can get it. Italy also lowered the threshold — from age 65 to 60 — for receiving the flu vaccine free of charge.

Britain’s health department expects enough doses for nearly half the population but cautions that phased deliveries might mean some doctors and pharmacies won’t receive shots until later in the fall. Britain typically offers free flu vaccines to older adults, pregnant women and certain other at-risk groups, and are discussing whether others should qualify for a free shot this year.

The World Health Organization said last week that some countries are scrambling to make sure they’ve got enough flu vaccine. WHO encouraged any countries worried about a shortfall to give priority to health workers and older adults.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 289303

Reported Deaths: 3434
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin616511100
Ramsey25903487
Anoka20522218
Dakota20096183
Washington13066109
Stearns1291098
St. Louis7935101
Scott782754
Wright702436
Olmsted626134
Sherburne538640
Clay463856
Carver432213
Blue Earth387112
Rice386033
Kandiyohi373819
Crow Wing334631
Nobles298729
Chisago29358
Otter Tail282818
Benton278642
Winona258128
Mower241323
Douglas237631
Polk234423
Morrison219524
Lyon201911
McLeod195610
Beltrami194615
Becker187512
Goodhue185727
Steele17826
Itasca176124
Isanti174316
Todd171612
Carlton165710
Nicollet150823
Freeborn14465
Mille Lacs141630
Le Sueur138110
Waseca134011
Cass12849
Brown125011
Pine12458
Meeker11308
Roseau10503
Hubbard103822
Martin101920
Wabasha9611
Redwood83718
Dodge8060
Chippewa8057
Watonwan7984
Cottonwood7682
Renville75119
Sibley7414
Wadena7376
Aitkin69826
Rock6829
Pipestone67818
Houston6422
Fillmore6320
Yellow Medicine59311
Pennington5856
Kanabec54912
Murray5493
Swift5366
Faribault5081
Pope4990
Stevens4643
Clearwater4536
Marshall4438
Jackson4361
Unassigned38759
Lake3816
Koochiching3535
Wilkin3465
Lac qui Parle3383
Norman3227
Lincoln3171
Big Stone2841
Mahnomen2704
Grant2516
Red Lake2033
Kittson1917
Traverse1360
Lake of the Woods931
Cook600

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 222064

Reported Deaths: 2319
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33019331
Linn13877164
Scott1085683
Black Hawk10730134
Woodbury10159121
Johnson935536
Dubuque907691
Story669721
Dallas624657
Pottawattamie612469
Sioux364625
Webster353033
Marshall343545
Cerro Gordo342644
Clinton319839
Buena Vista300014
Des Moines281719
Muscatine280968
Warren274011
Plymouth268941
Wapello251171
Jones227913
Jasper212443
Marion201719
Lee197916
Carroll195422
Bremer191312
Henry18037
Crawford173015
Benton166217
Tama152240
Jackson142113
Delaware140221
Washington137414
Dickinson134210
Boone134011
Mahaska125327
Wright12156
Buchanan115010
Clay11314
Hardin113010
Page11134
Hamilton10809
Clayton10715
Harrison106129
Cedar104913
Calhoun10487
Kossuth10236
Floyd102216
Mills10177
Fayette10159
Lyon10058
Poweshiek97913
Butler9746
Winneshiek95412
Iowa92312
Winnebago90223
Hancock8497
Louisa83916
Grundy83811
Chickasaw8354
Sac8297
Cherokee8134
Cass79721
Appanoose77310
Mitchell7704
Allamakee76811
Union7546
Humboldt7525
Shelby75010
Emmet74724
Guthrie73715
Franklin72921
Jefferson6852
Madison6734
Palo Alto6454
Unassigned6320
Keokuk5737
Pocahontas5532
Howard5419
Greene5160
Osceola5131
Clarke4774
Ida46813
Taylor4563
Davis4508
Montgomery44911
Monroe43712
Adair4298
Monona4212
Fremont3543
Van Buren3525
Worth3520
Lucas3216
Decatur3150
Wayne2957
Audubon2942
Ringgold2022
Adams1642
Rochester
Clear
30° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 22°
Mason City
Clear
33° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 24°
Albert Lea
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 25°
Austin
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 22°
Charles City
Clear
27° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 18°
A Sunny and Mild Saturday Expected
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Sidelined in quarantine: Coach Fennelly talks about his experience away from the game

Image

Here Comes Santa Claus Drive-Thru

Image

Here Comes Santa Claus Drive-Thru

Image

Santa Claus Visits Rochester to Lead Drive-Thru Parade

Image

Aaron's Friday Evening Forecast

Image

Increased demand for real Christmas trees

Image

Santa visits Rochester for drive-thru parade

Image

Salvation Army needs bell ringers

Image

Search for man stalking women

Image

Downtown Alliance for shopping locally

Community Events