The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases kicked off the 2022-2023 flu vaccination season during a press conference held in person at the National Press Club for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, Oct. 4. Leading infectious disease experts, including CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, emphasized the importance of flu vaccination and getting up to date on other routine immunizations, including pneumococcal vaccination.
Dr. Walensky presented an overview of last flu season, reviewed the most recent flu vaccination coverage data, and discussed the upcoming flu season, including a notable change to the flu vaccine recommendations for this season; the preferential recommendation for specific vaccines for people 65 years and older.
Overall, during the 2021-2022 flu season, about 51 percent of the U.S. population 6 months and older received a flu vaccine, which has changed little compared to the previous two flu seasons and even prior to the pandemic. However, there were some concerning findings in flu vaccination coverage estimates, including:
- decreases in coverage among children and pregnant people that have occurred since the COVID-19 pandemic,
- the fact that only about 43 percent of adults 18-49 years with a chronic health condition got a flu vaccine last season, and
- persistent racial and ethnic disparities.
During most seasons people 65 years and older bear the greatest burden of severe flu disease, accounting for the majority of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. For the 2022-2023 flu season, there are three flu vaccines that are preferentially recommended for people 65 years and older. These are Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine, Flublok Quadrivalent recombinant flu vaccine and Fluad Quadrivalent adjuvanted flu vaccine. This preferential recommendation was based on a review of available studies which suggested that, in this age group, these vaccines are potentially more effective than standard dose unadjuvanted flu vaccines. People 65 years and older should try to get one of these three preferentially recommended vaccines. If none of these three vaccines is available at the time of administration, people in this age group should get any other age-appropriate flu vaccine instead.
While COVID-19 vaccines have been rightfully the focus of much attention during the COVID-19 pandemic, experts at the press conference urged the public to remember the ongoing importance of flu and pneumococcal vaccination. Dr. Walensky noted that CDC is preparing for the return of flu this season and reminded attendees that flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines can be given in the same visit if the timing coincides. Both vaccines have been shown to reduce illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths.
Flu continues to pose a serious potential public health threat, and annual flu vaccination remains a critical tool to prevent flu and its potentially serious outcomes. CDC and its many partners work to improve flu vaccine uptake each year. CDC has launched a digital campaign called “Help Them Fight Flu” to encourage parents of young children to get them vaccinated against flu. CDC’s “Help Them Fight Flu” communication activation is available for everyone to participate in. (Upload your own flu vaccination photos in one of the customizable frames and share with your family, friends and followers.) CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine, ideally by the end of October.
CDC also is continuing its collaboration with the AMA and the Ad Council to raise awareness among general population about the importance of flu vaccination, with a focus on Black and Hispanic audiences. This is one of the ways CDC is addressing persistent racial and ethnic disparities. CDC will release updated vaccine coverage and hospitalization data by race and ethnicity as well as more information on how CDC is working to address barriers to vaccination on October 18 in a Vital Signs MMWR report.
CDC is already tracking flu vaccine distribution and coverage for the 2022-2023 flu season. As of Sep. 24, approximately 91 million doses of flu vaccine had been distributed while as of Sep. 10, 3.7 million doses had been administered to adults in pharmacies and physician offices. Over the course of the 2022-2023 flu season, CDC will share some preliminary, within-season, weekly flu vaccination data and coverage estimates using existing and new data sources through the Weekly National Flu Vaccination Dashboard. The dashboard will be updated regularly throughout the flu season as new data become available.
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 could also help protect those who are more vulnerable 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.