Amid the coronavirus pandemic, health officials at both the federal and state levels urged the public to get the flu shot this year in an effort to prevent hospitalizations from the seasonal illness on top of those due to COVID-19.
According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it appears Americans heeded the advice: An estimated 188 million doses of the flu vaccine have been distributed throughout the country this year, a record.
It is “the highest number of flu doses distributed in the United States during a single influenza season,” the federal agency said in its Weekly National Flu Vaccination Dashboard.
In the week ending Nov. 21, some 44.5 million adult flu vaccinations had been administered in pharmacies across the country, compared with 30.4 million at the same time last year, or a 46% increase compared to 2019.
Meanwhile, in the week ending Nov. 14, the number of adult flu vaccinations administered at doctors’ offices across the country was at 25.3 million, a drop from the 27.4 million reported at the same time in 2019.
However, the CDC noted that “it is not clear, at this time, if the increase in the number of adults getting flu vaccination in pharmacies represents an increase in the total number of adults getting vaccinated this season or whether more adults are getting vaccinated in pharmacies due to shifts in preference, convenience or accessibility.”
“Data about flu vaccinations in other settings such as workplaces are not available,” it added.
Since Sept. 27, 429 people have tested positive for influenza. The CDC has also noted that no influenza-associated pediatric deaths have occurred this season.
“While flu activity remains low at this time, the timing and duration of flu season can vary, and flu activity may increase in the coming weeks. People who have not gotten their flu vaccination yet should get vaccinated now, and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later,” the CDC said in the report.