Measles or the Flu: How Will COVID-19 Exist?

December 20, 2020
Kevin Kunzmann

A discussion on how the public is still concerned with flu shot myths, and how it may influence COVID-19 vaccination and overall mitigation.

The introduction of so many people to clinical academics and strategies due to the all-encompassing coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) is a silver lining in an otherwise bleak crisis: many more people are emotionally and mentally invested in science and health, as they’ve been affected by the pandemic.

This opportunity to better educate the public on preparedness and prevention comes with the baggage that neither facet of public health response has proven to be the strong suit of the US.

New survey data from the NORC Spotlight on Health show that, despite a clear awareness of COVID-19 and influenza (flu) coinfection risk during the flu season, 35% of US adults have no intention of getting their annual flu shot.

The count is unsurprising, given the public’s history of hesitancy surrounding the flu shot’s efficacy and safety—on matters which, despite oftentimes being easily corrected myths, lead people to fear the vaccine more than the flu itself.

Why can’t clinicians get through to patients on these issues, and what could national vaccine hesitancy mean for COVID-19?

In an interview with HCPLive, study author Caroline Pearson, senior vice president of Public Health research at NORC at the University of Chicago, discussed how concepts including reduced hospitalization or severe illness risk associated with the flu shot is continually lost on people.

Pearson also discussed the relevance of the continued flu shot issues with new discussions around the first COVID-19 vaccines; how the public is informed on such vaccines and their choices as to whether they get it or not could make a significant difference in the presence of the virus going forward.

“We should ask ourselves whether COVID-19 is going to look more like the measles or like the flu, from a public health policy perspective,” Pearson said.

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