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Lessons Learned from COVID-19 for Flu Preparedness

Posted on April 14, 2022
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While Josiah Swenson was fighting for his life in the ICU with a severe case of influenza B in March 2020, his mother was forced to leave him in the hospital alone due to COVID-19 precautions. Over the last two years, many other families suffered from the double impacts of flu and COVID-19.

Like the many COVID-19 variants from the past two years, influenza viruses are highly contagious and constantly adapt and mutate, making influenza a high-risk respiratory illness with the potential for serious outbreaks and severe cases like Josiah’s each season.

An estimated 1 billion people worldwide are infected by seasonal influenza every year, 3-5 million of whom suffer from severe cases, resulting in as many as 650,000 deaths. Seasonal influenza also causes billions of dollars of economic loss and strains the healthcare system every year. Influenza also poses a pandemic threat. 

We must learn from the COVID-19 experience to strengthen our preparedness efforts and ensure we’re ready for the next pandemic. That means advocating for governments to increase their investments in pandemic preparedness plans, surveillance, and vaccine manufacturing and supply chains well before the next occurrence of pandemic influenza.

The National Academy of Medicine launched the “Advancing Pandemic and Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Preparedness and Response” Initiative to harness lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to better prepare and protect ourselves against influenza. To read more about the Initiative’s findings and recommendations, please see here. 

 

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