In an August 2020 interview on the JAMA Network, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. warned that the coming flu season, combined with the existing COVID-19 pandemic, "could be one of the most complicated pubic times we've had."
At the same time, he expressed his optimism that Americans would do their part to prevent a worst-case scenario from happening. "I'm an optimist that the American public heeds the advice about social distancing and mask wearing and hand washing and being smart about crowds, and that this could actually be one of the best flu seasons."
"Particularly," he continued,"if they do one more thing and that's to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence."
Redfield said he believes so strongly in the need for widespread vaccination that he purchased an additional 9.3 million flu vaccine doses to ensure access to all Americans.
Despite this optimism, the CDC director and the nation's public health officials will have their work cut out for them. As Dr. Redfield noted, less than half of all Amercians receive a flu shot each year. The rate of immunization among children tends to exceed 60 percent, but drops to the "high 30's" among adults.
"My goal is to get us up to 65 percent this year," Redfield said, "to try and take flu as much off the table as we can as a respiratory pathogen that's going to cause people to be sick enough to go into the hospital. The biggest fear I have of course with having COVID and flu at the same time is that our hospital capacity could get strained."
Many of the nation's pharmacists are already at work, with flu shots available in their pharmacies and public education outreach efforts underway. Pharmacies administer more than 25 percent of annual flu shots each year, and are well-positioned to serve patients during the unprecedented challenges of Fall 2020.
According to Drug Topics, pharmacies across the nation are implementing new protocols to ensure patient and staff safety. A representative from Walgreens noted that, in accordance with CDC guidelines, all pharmacists are required to wear facemasks while administering vaccinations and must defer immunizations if a patient is sick. Patients must also wear a face covering while receiving an immunization, with a supply available for patients who arrive at the pharmacy without one.
Pharmacies have also added enhanced cleaning regimes, social distancing protocols and plexiglass shields to enhance patient safety. National Public Radio reported on plans for off-site vaccination clinics in parking lots of churches and supermarkets, curbside inoculations, and socially distanced vaccine appointments held indoors, with breaks for disinfecting.
The CDC advises that September and October are ideal times to receive a vaccination, to ensure protection for the duration of flu season. As pharmacy managers gear up for what will hopefully be a robust vaccination season, they will rely on their technology systems, like PrimeRx™ by Micro Merchant Systems for seamless records and inventory management, compliance reporting, and proactive customer management.
As CDC director Redfield summarized: "Let's get the American public vaccinated!"