Despite recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for annual flu vaccinations, only about 58% of children and fewer than half of all adults in the US receive the flu shot each year. In contrast, just 21% of US adults and less than 8% of children have received a Covid-19 vaccine. The lower acceptance of Covid vaccines can be attributed to the belief that children are less susceptible to the virus and the political controversies surrounding the vaccine.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist, believes that the higher rates of flu vaccination could help boost Covid vaccination rates. As the US moves towards an annual model for updating Covid vaccines similar to flu shots, healthcare professionals may recommend both vaccines to patients. Vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer also plan to develop a combined Covid and flu shot, which could help increase vaccination rates.
However, Pfizer predicts that fewer Americans will receive Covid vaccines this year compared to last year. They anticipate an increase in Covid vaccination rates starting in 2025, with the availability of a Covid-flu combination product. Moderna also plans to roll out a combined Covid and flu shot in 2025 if their trials go well. Meanwhile, Novavax is testing a combination Covid-flu vaccine.
Currently, patients in the US can receive both the Covid and flu vaccines during the same appointment, although they are administered as separate shots. Public health officials recommend this approach for convenience. Additionally, it is estimated that expanding the recommendation for updated Covid vaccines to include everyone 6 months and older will prevent an additional 15,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations over the next two years.
While the hope is that higher flu vaccination rates will translate to higher Covid vaccination rates, public health experts recognize that flu vaccination rates also need improvement. Schaffner emphasizes that although reaching two-thirds of individuals aged 65 and older with the flu shot is commendable, it still leaves a significant portion of the population unvaccinated.