There is something new with the flu and the vaccine against it every year. We summarized answers to 10 questions frequently asked by patients and clinicians alike.
As flu season approaches, the CDC has provided primary care physicians and other health care professionals with guidance and updates on the latest developments in the flu virus itself and flu vaccination.
Find our brief summaries of the CDC’s Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2021-2022 Season in the slides below.
The CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for all persons aged ≥6 months who do not have contraindications, particularly those who are at high risk for serious flu complications. Persons who should NOT get the flu shot: children younger than 6 months and persons who have severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or a vaccine ingredient (eg, gelatin or antibiotics).
Flu vaccine changes for the 2021-2022 season include the following: (1) The composition of flu vaccines has been updated, (2) All flu vaccines will be quadrivalent, (3) Flucelvax Quadrivalent is now approved for persons aged ≥2 years, and (4) Guidance was updated concerning contraindications and precautions for use of the Flucevax Quadrivalent and Flublok Quadrivalent flu vaccines.
All flu vaccines are designed to protect against the 4 viruses that will be most common, including 2 influenza A viruses and 2 influenza B viruses. Recommendations were made for egg-, cell-, and recombinant-based flu vaccines. The influenza A(H1N1) and the influenza A(H3N2) vaccine virus components were updated from the 2020-2021 US flu vaccines.
The timing of influenza activity often varies from one part of the country to another and from season to season and therefore is difficult to predict. Reduced population immunity resulting from a lack of flu virus activity corresponding with the COVID-19 pandemic could produce an early and severe flu season.
In a new Weekly National Flu Vaccination Dashboard, the CDC will provide preliminary, in-season, weekly flu vaccination coverage estimates. Data will include the number of flu vaccine doses distributed, weekly flu vaccination coverage rates for children aged 6 months to 17 years, monthly flu vaccination coverage rates among pregnant persons, and the number of flu vaccines administered in pharmacies and doctors’ offices.
These “enhanced” flu vaccines and the recombinant flu vaccine may be used in persons age ≥ 65 years to create a stronger immune response, and some standard dose flu vaccines can be used in older patients. The CDC does not have a preferential recommendation for any particular flu vaccine, and vaccination should not be delayed for a specific vaccine product when another is available.
Nonhospitalized patients with acute respiratory symptoms should be advised to self-isolate at home while they wait for test results, even if they test negative for both SARS-CoV-2 and flu viruses. Nonhospitalized patients with suspected or confirmed flu at increased risk for flu complications should receive antiviral treatment ASAP, regardless of illness duration. Empiric oseltamivir treatment should be started ASAP for hospitalized patients with suspected flu without waiting for flu test results
Clinical algorithms on the CDC Web site offer guidance in decision-making regarding influenza testing and treatment when SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses are co-circulating. Other CDC algorithms cover when to test for flu, how to interpret flu testing results, and what flu virus tests are available.
FDA-approved antiviral medications for flu treatment have no activity against SARS-CoV-2 viruses, and they do not interact with medications used for COVID-19 treatment. Patients at higher risk for flu complications who receive a diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 and flu virus co-infection should receive antiviral treatment for flu.