US Working With Manufacturers to Boost Flu Vaccine Availability, Top Official Says

By Michael Erman

June 05, 2020

NEW YORK4 (Reuters) - The U.S. government is working with drugmakers to maximize availability of influenza vaccines, worried that a substantial flu season on top of another wave of the novel coronavirus could swamp the healthcare system this fall, a top U.S. health official said on Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is seeking emergency use authorization for a test to detect and differentiate flu from COVID-19, the agency's director Robert Redfield said in prepared testimony submitted to a House of Representatives committee.

"CDC is working with manufacturers to maximize influenza vaccine availability and with healthcare providers to develop contingency plans so that people can be vaccinated in a safe environment," Redfield said in the written testimony, adding that ongoing COVID-19 activity may affect when, where, and how flu vaccines are given.

U.S. pharmacy chains have been preparing a big push for flu vaccinations when the season kicks off in October, hoping to prevent tens of thousands of serious cases that could coincide with a second wave of coronavirus infections.

The United States has 1,827,425 cases of the virus and 106,202 related deaths, Redfield said in the testimony.

"This is the greatest public health challenge we have faced in more than 100 years," he said.