Claire Hannan, Executive Director of the Association of Immunization Managers, says vaccines have benefited from the attention they’ve received during the pandemic; Jessica Baggett, ASTHO’s COVID-19 Response Director, says states and territories...
Claire Hannan, Executive Director of the Association of Immunization Managers, says vaccines have benefitted from the attention they’ve received during the pandemic; Jessica Baggett, ASTHO’s COVID-19 Response Director, says states and territories have work to do to prepare for the rollout of antiviral therapies, like the AstraZeneca formula given emergency use authorization by the FDA Wednesday afternoon; a new ASTHO blog article details how an interagency collaboration aims to improve business processes in the U.S. Virgin Islands; and the Surgeon General has a new toolkit available to help public health agencies address online misinformation.
This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Thursday, December 9th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.
Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
Vaccines have been in the news for almost two years thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. People know more about vaccines than ever before—how they're made, tested, and approved. They also know about their side effects and even the names of the companies that make them.
In recognition of National Influenza Vaccination Week this week, we caught up with Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, to talk about vaccines—it's today's morning conversation.
When you weigh the pros and cons, would you say vaccines are in a better place today because of the awareness that's been created during the pandemic?
I do think we're in a better place. I think that our capacity is much more—our ability to give vaccine, to educate about vaccine, to make sure it's stored and administered properly, and to track the data, to know where we have vulnerable areas with lower vaccination rates—much better.
I do worry about the politicization of vaccines because we never really had that before. And, you know, I hope that the sooner we move on from the pandemic, the less politics will play a part and the more that, you know, vaccines will just be a positive, successful strategy to prevent disease.
Of course, most of the attention has been on COVID vaccines, but this is National Influenza Vaccination Week.
Does the flu vaccine benefit from all of this attention on vaccines in general?
I hope that adults that are seeking their boosters and parents that are seeking COVID vaccine for their kids will also ask their provider for flu vaccine. We have not seen that yet—we were seeing lower uptake of flu vaccine so far this season. But you can get flu vaccine while you're getting COVID vaccine, so I certainly hope that people will do that.
I just remind people that flu can be serious, too, and the vaccine does prevent those serious impacts of flu. And so, it's really critical to get both vaccines.
Why do you think the uptake is lower?
I think it's a combination of a lot of things: people, obviously, are more fearful of COVID right now than flu; there's a shortage of providers—you know, staffing shortages, pharmacists and providers spread thin, so, you don't see flu vaccine promoted as much as you do COVID; and I think that people are just— they're taking precautions, they're wearing masks, or they're doing other things—they feel like they're protected, maybe. And you know, really what provides protection is the vaccine.
Public health and people working on public health teams listen to this newscast every morning. For their benefit, do you think we need to do anything to change the messaging around flu vaccines or is it right where it needs to be?
I do think the key message is that flu vaccine reduces hospitalization and death, and just giving that reminder and just really emphasizing that you can get both vaccines at the same time—COVID and flu. I think the messages are good, and I think this is a good opportunity—during National Influenza Vaccine Week—to remind people about flu, to remind people about the flu vaccine.
I think that other things have taken attention. People are fatigued and they may not be thinking about flu vaccine, they may have overlooked it; and they just need the messaging and the reminder.
The first COVID-19 therapy produced by AstraZeneca has been approved by the FDA for emergency use. Two other formulas from other drug makers remain under consideration. It's possible all of them could receive approval before the end of the year.
Jessica Baggett, ASTHO's COVID-19 response director, says states and territories have some work to do and some questions to get answered.
So, there are a few things that states can do right now: they can begin identifying locations in their communities where the antiviral would be available to the public; they need to partner with healthcare systems, and pharmacies, and pharmacy chains; and share information and resources with clinical providers, to name a few.
There are so many unknowns, such as, you know, who will be prioritized initially, what are the requirements around testing, and who can prescribe this product. So, once we have that additional information from the FDA, that will give states additional details to move forward with their planning efforts.
Also today, a new ASTHO blog article details how an inter-agency collaboration aims to improve business processes in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The goal is to better manage federal dollars for programs that address the social determinants of health and improvements in population health.
Find the article link in the show notes.
Finally this morning, the Surgeon General has a new toolkit available to help public health agencies address online misinformation. It includes exercises that teach users how to identify misinformation and disinformation. You can also find guidance for addressing inaccurate or harmful online posts.
There's a link to download the toolkit in the show notes.
That'll do it for today's report.
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I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.