Flu vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic
There is a strong case for dedicating resources to secure timely flu vaccination of vulnerable groups and overcome the barriers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evidence of the benefits of flu vaccination for vulnerable groups is overwhelming, but flu vaccination programmes face extraordinary challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flu can be a dangerous illness for people in certain vulnerable groups, such as those with underlying health conditions, babies and young children, pregnant women and older people. Worldwide, flu is responsible for up to 650,000 deaths each year. To lessen that burden and protect vulnerable populations, effective flu vaccination programmes have been rolled out annually.
The 2021/22 flu season is expected to coincide with an uptick in COVID-19 infections, a situation likely to exacerbate the strain that health systems have been under since the start of the pandemic. There is evidence that people infected with both flu and COVID-19 are twice as likely to die as those who are only infected with COVID-19, making the case for flu vaccination stronger than ever.
Flu vaccination programmes are well established in many countries around the world, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about challenges that health systems may not be prepared for. These challenges include complacency about flu compared with the gravity of COVID-19; optimal timing of flu vaccination in the context of national COVID-19 vaccination programmes; the unpredictability of a flu season coinciding with another possible spike in COVID-19 infections; and capacity of health systems expected to deliver both flu and COVID-19 vaccines.
What we’ve achieved
HPP worked with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) to help convey messages around the urgency of flu vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic to decision-makers at the international level.
We distilled the key messages into an accessible infographic for policymakers and health service planners. We also collated the evidence base for the recommended approach in a report. Both the infographic and the report have been published on the IFPMA website and are free to download and distribute.
Key partners and stakeholders
The content was developed by HPP in close consultation with the Influenza Vaccine Supply Task Force, which is formed of representatives from a number of IFPMA members. HPP and IFPMA are grateful to Ilaria Passarani, Secretary General of the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union, who volunteered to be interviewed for this project.
This project was funded by the IFPMA.