This Viewpoint proposes policy responses to boost influenza vaccination uptake and reduce the anticipated morbidity and mortality of an influenza–COVID-19 co-epidemic in fall 2020.
The authors suggest that the confluence of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza this fall and winter will result in considerable morbidity and mortality, stressing the health system. In 2018-2019, the US experienced 35.5 million influenza cases, with 490 600 hospitalizations and 34 200 influenza-related deaths. In order to prepare the health system and wider society for the likelihood of a COVID-19 and influenza co-epidemics in 2020, they suggest:
- Expanding influenza vaccine coverage by incentivizing vaccine production, increasing demand (via a government-funded mass communication public health campaign), ensuring safe access, and prioritizing children
- Potentially mandating influenza vaccines in specific settings such as educational facilities (daycares, K-12 schools, colleges, and universities), businesses, and healthcare facilities.
- At the very least, all levels of government should develop evidence-based immunization plans, appealing to individuals’ ethical responsibilities to protect themselves, health care workers, family members, and vulnerable populations