BRIDGEWATER, N.J., Aug. 12, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Amid signs that a more severe influenza season is approaching in the US, a panel of public health leaders today urged that people get vaccinated in preparation for the upcoming influenza season and warned that patients in high-risk populations tend to suffer significant flu-related health disparities.3
The conversation focused on how to increase protection for people over 65 and those with weakened immune systems, including those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease. Experts also considered how inequities translate to higher rates of hospitalizations due to the flu among Black Americans and other under-represented communities.1
The virtual discussion, hosted by Sanofi with invited media in attendance, was moderated by Michael Greenberg, MD, MPH, North America Medical Head of Vaccines at Sanofi.
Michael Greenberg, MD, MPH
North America Medical Head of Vaccines at Sanofi
"We have the tools to help reduce the burden of disease in populations most severely affected by flu, especially among those over age 65. By partnering with organizations and healthcare providers, we can combat complacency among those who may be fatigued by vaccine news, and who may not understand the severe complications of a flu infection that vaccines can help prevent. As a leader in flu vaccines, Sanofi aims to help protect high-risk populations from flu and its related complications. We have a responsibility to help prevent as much flu as possible through vaccination."
Experts anticipate a rise in flu cases in the Northern Hemisphere this flu season compared with last year based on the steep rise in cases in the Southern Hemisphere this season.4 Today's panel, composed of chief medical officers of the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association and the President and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum, provided insights on the impact of flu in light of a decline in vaccination rates during the 2021-2022 flu season.
Gary A. Puckrein, PhD
President & CEO, National Minority Quality Forum
"The economic and health burden of vaccine-preventable influenza on communities of color is clear and access to effective vaccines is essential. The level of disparity in vaccine uptake, particularly among patients of color, points to structural deficits systematically hampering access to influenza vaccination.5"
Age can be a factor when it comes to flu-related complications and flu vaccinations can help reduce the burden of disease.6 In a study of influenza vaccine effectiveness in 3,135 adults over 18 during 2012-2015, of adults hospitalized as a result of the flu, vaccinated patients were 59% less likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit than those who had not been vaccinated.7 Importantly, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an advisory body to the CDC, has recognized that certain flu vaccines are potentially more effective for people over 65.8
Comorbidities present the risk for added complications, according to the experts. Among adults hospitalized with influenza during recent flu seasons, about half had heart disease.9 In recent seasons, about 30% of adult flu hospitalizations had diabetes and during the 2021-22 flu season, 30.6% of flu-related hospitalizations were among adults with chronic lung disease.10,11
Eduardo Sanchez, MD, MPH, FAHA, FAAFP
Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, American Heart Association
"Hands down, your best protection from the flu this year comes from the flu shot, which is proven to be practical and cost-effective. Virtually everyone can benefit from the flu shot and that's especially true for people with heart disease and seniors who are more likely to be hospitalized with flu and flu-related complications.2,9 If you're over 65, you should ask about getting the specific flu vaccines this year which may potentially be more effective."
Robert Gabbay, MD
Chief Science & Medical Officer, American Diabetes Association
"People with diabetes are at high risk of serious flu complications, even when well-managed, which can result in flu-related hospitalization and sometimes even flu-related death.10 Preventing flu and its serious complications should be a global public health priority and we aim to encourage vaccinations as we approach the upcoming flu season."
Albert Rizzo, MD
Chief Medical Officer, American Lung Association
"While anyone can get the flu, certain people are at increased risk for developing serious flu complications such as those living with chronic medical conditions including asthma, COPD and other chronic lung diseases.3 The flu can be deadly, which is why we urge all eligible people six months or older to get the flu shot annually."
Participating organizations did not receive compensation for this discussion. The above quotes were adapted from each speaker's prepared remarks.
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1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu Disparities Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/disparities-racial-ethnic-minority-groups.html. Accessed July 27, 2022.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu & People 65 Years and Older. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/65over.htm. Accessed July 27, 2022.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People at Higher Risk for Flu Complications. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/index.htm. Accessed July 27, 2022.
4 Australian Government Department of Health. Australian Influenza Surveillance Report - 2022 Influenza Season in Australia. Available at: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-surveil-ozflu-flucurr.htm. Accessed July 27, 2022.
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu Disparities Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/disparities-racial-ethnic-minority-groups.html. Accessed July 2022.
6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm. Accessed July 27, 2022.
7 Thompson MG, Pierse N, Sue Huang Q, et al. Influenza vaccine effectiveness in preventing influenza-associated intensive care admissions and attenuating severe disease among adults in New Zealand 2012-2015. Vaccine. 2018;36(39):5916-5925.
8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACIP Flu Meeting Update: Flu Vaccines Worked Better than Reported & ACIP Recommends Specific Vaccines for Seniors. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/2021-2022/specific-vaccines-seniors.htm. Accessed July 27, 2022.
9 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu and People with Heart Disease or History of Stroke. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/heartdisease.htm. Accessed July 27, 2022.
10 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu and People with Diabetes. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/diabetes.htm. Accessed July 27, 2022.
11 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FluView Interactive. Laboratory-Confirmed Influenza Hospitalizations. Available at: https://gis.cdc.gov/grasp/fluview/FluHospChars.html. Accessed July 12, 2022.