DENVER, Colorado — In the coming months, expect to be bombarded with messages from public health agencies urging you to get a flu shot. Higher community immunity means less transmission and less hospitalizations, a key metric in keeping the economy open.
During the last flu season, which ended around the time the pandemic intensified, 3,544 people were hospitalized with influenza in Colorado. So far in the pandemic, 6,516 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state. Now, imagine those hospitalization numbers colliding when the flu season ramps up in the fall.
“If we can actually get good coverage with people taking the flu shot then we can actually prevent some additional burden on health care and infrastructure,” said Lindsay Diamond, co-director for Community Immunity, a nonprofit vaccine advocacy group.
Flu shots will be available in record numbers this season to help prevent hospitalizations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said vaccine manufacturers project making nearly 200 million doses.
In Colorado, just 45% of those over 6 months old were vaccinated last season. Diamond said ideally 80% of the population would be vaccinated.
“Whenever we're talking about vaccinations, you know, we're always looking at how do we protect vulnerable populations above all else? You know, that's the importance of herd immunity,” said Diamond.
There's arguably never been a bigger focus on vulnerable populations. Diamond hopes the enthusiasm around protecting those groups will help boost vaccine rates. But demands for social distancing and suggestions to avoid high traffic areas could scare people from entering a clinic to get a shot.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores represents major vaccine providers like Walgreens and CVS. They said companies are currently working to develop additional safety protocols and provide more off-site vaccination clinics such as community centers, or even large-scale drive-thru vaccination sites.
Experts suggest getting the vaccine early in the season, September or October, as the influenza vaccine takes a couple of weeks to develop the right amount of antibodies.
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