New CDC Study Looks at Flu Severity by Virus Type and Subtype

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New CDC Study Looks at Flu Severity by Virus Type and Subtype


Thursday, September 28, 2023 — Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) kicked off the 2023-2024 fall vaccination season during an annual news conference. At the 2023 NFID Annual News Conference: Preventing Disease This Fall and Winter, experts discussed the unique opportunity this fall to protect people with vaccines recommended against flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), COVID-19, and pneumococcal disease. Leading national public health experts participated. CDC Director Dr. Mandy K. Cohen shared updated 2022-2023 United States. flu activity and vaccine coverage data, including preliminary CDC estimates that flu vaccination last season prevented 66,500 flu hospitalizations. NFID shared results from a new national survey of United States. adults on vaccination behaviors and attitudes that underscore the challenge vaccine advocates face as people’s reported intent to get vaccinated was low overall.

Other experts also discussed the public health impact of these diseases and how the public can best protect themselves this fall and winter. NFID and CDC expert panelists included: Keith C. Ferdinand, MD, Professor of Medicine, Tulane University School of Medicine; Robert H. Hopkins, Jr., MD, NFID Medical Director; William Schaffner, MD, NFID Spokesperson; Patsy A. Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, NFID President (Moderator); and Vivien G. Dugan, PhD, Director, CDC Influenza Division.

Flu Vaccination Coverage

During the 2022-2023 flu season, 49% of the overall United States. population 6 months and older received a flu vaccine. This is a decrease of 2 percentage points over last season. Below are highlights from CDC’s final flu vaccine coverage estimates:

Children

  • While flu vaccination coverage increased the two seasons prior to the COVID-19 pandemic for children (2018–2020), coverage declined during the pandemic and at 57% remains about 6 percentage points below pre-pandemic levels.
  • Disparities in flu vaccination coverage among children living in urban versus rural areas worsened last season. Flu vaccination rates for children living in rural areas was 19 percentage points lower than for children living in urban areas last season, compared to a gap of 13 percentage points during 2021-2022.

Adults

  • Overall, among people 18 years and older, flu vaccination coverage was 46.9%, 2.5 percentage points lower than coverage during the 2021–22 season. Among adults, coverage generally increases with age.
  • Long-standing racial and ethnic disparities in vaccination coverage persist in the United States. Last season, disparities of up to 15 percentage points were seen in flu vaccination coverage between White adults and adults from certain racial and ethnic minority groups.
  • For adults 18-49 years with at least one underlying medical condition, vaccination coverage was only 41% during the 2022-2023 season, which is similar to the 2021-2022 flu season. Last flu season, 97% of adults who were hospitalized with flu had at least one underlying medical condition.

Pregnant people

Although pregnant people are at higher risk of flu’s potentially serious complications, flu vaccination coverage in this group has fallen dramatically since before the pandemic. Fewer than half of pregnant people got a flu vaccine last season. Different CDC data sources estimate that drop in coverage since the COVID-19 pandemic is in the range of 10 to 15 percentage points.

Health Care Providers

Based on survey data, CDC estimates that 76% of health care personnel got a flu vaccine during the 2022-2023 season, which is 5 percentage points lower than during the 2021-2022 season, when 81% reported getting a flu vaccine. Flu vaccination coverage was lowest among those working in long-term care facilities and home health care settings at 68%. This is especially concerning because people living in these settings tend to be at higher risk of severe illnesses.

2022-2023 Flu Season

Last flu season started early in the United States, with activity increasing nationally at the beginning of October 2022 and peaking in early December 2022. CDC preliminary estimates are that during the 2022-2023 flu season, 31 million people got sick with flu, 14 million people visited a health care provider with flu, 360,000 people were hospitalized with flu, and 21,000 people died due to flu illness or related complications. Additionally, 176 flu related deaths in children were reported to CDC for this season.  This is the third largest number of deaths in children reported during a seasonal flu epidemic since reporting began during the 2004-2005 flu season. Like several seasons, adults 65 years and older were hospitalized at the highest rate last season, followed by children younger than 5 years.

CDC Recommends an Annual Flu Vaccine

An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help reduce the risk flu and its potentially serious complications. September and October are ideal times to get vaccinated. As of September 16, 2023, CDC has received reports from manufacturers that 83.59 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed across the United States. so far this season.

To help encourage flu vaccination this season CDC launched a new flu vaccination campaign called ‘Wild to Mild’ to share key information especially with parents and pregnant people about how getting a flu vaccine can reduce your risk of flu and its serious outcome. A separate campaign, “Get My Flu Shot” which is a collaboration between the CDC, American Medical Association, and the Ad Council, focuses on trying to reduce long-standing disparities in vaccine coverage among Black and Hispanic Americans.

CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against flu each year. Flu vaccination reduces the burden of flu illness, hospitalization, and death and getting vaccinated can also help protect others who are at higher risk to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions. If you have questions about which flu vaccine is right for you or getting your flu vaccine at the same time as another vaccine, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider.


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