Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, and flu season is around the corner. Is anyone ready?
I ask the question following the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a new coronavirus vaccine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that everyone 6 months and older receive it.
The agencies’ actions came amid increasingly discouraging statistics about COVID-19. In the week ended Sept. 2, the CDC reported a weekly increase of 8.7% in COVID-19 hospital admissions, to 18,871 admissions. The number of admissions has increased weekly since late June, according to the agency.
In talking with healthcare systems, Modern Healthcare reporter Lauren Berryman has found that frontline workers are starting to come down with COVID-19, but those cases, as well as the growing number of patients in hospitals with the virus, are not disrupting hospital operations. Health systems told Berryman what they’re more concerned about right now is that wariness about getting the COVID-19 vaccine will also make people hesitant to get a flu vaccine.
During the 2022-2023 flu season, the CDC estimated 47.4% of adults and 55.1% of children received the flu vaccine. Vaccination rates were much higher for white people of all ages than for people of color. It certainly looks like there’s room for improvement across the board.
Unless we’re dealing with Long COVID symptoms, many of us have come to accept COVID-19 as something that’s just part of the world we live in, like the flu. We hear about friends and family members getting either one, and we keep our distance for a while. Masking is more the exception than the rule, even in crowded indoor environments. And like me, you probably have some expired coronavirus test kits in a cabinet.
Craving normalcy, however, can lead to complacency. During the height of the public health emergency, healthcare trade groups, providers and insurers, on their own and together, issued public service announcements across various types of media to encourage people to get vaccinated.
It’s time for the industry to fight misinformation and complacency, to raise its voice for the flu and COVID-19 vaccines. Educate the consumer now, and keep your pandemic playbooks on the shelf.