As health care providers have been strongly recommending flu shots for all in order to fend off a "twindemic," but there have been reports around the world of flu vaccine shortages. However, experts say there is unlikely to be a real shortage.
Dr. David Battinelli, Northwell Health's Chief Medical Officer, said in an interview with Gothamist/WNYC, "We have no shortage. Every year we are prepared... we hope that more people opt for the vaccine."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported there is no shortage.
Mary Zimmerman, the immunization program manager for a Michigan health provider, told a Michigan TV network earlier this month that "two of the biggest manufacturers of the flu vaccine said production was ramped up this year so they have made at least 20% more than they have any other season." Regarding the so-called shortage, Zimmerman believes "there are some shipping delays... due to the hurricane and others due to the increased demand on shipping with UPS and FedEx."
The urgency for people to get their flu shots is because flu symptoms—fever, chills, aches, sore throat—are similar to those of the coronavirus. Battinelli pointed out if someone who hasn't gotten a flu vaccine gets sick, "We're going to some increased difficulty in determining whether the illness is the flu" or COVID-19.
"The more people who receive the flu vaccine, the less people will become ill," Battinelli explained. Even if the flu vaccine is never 100% effective, due to how the flu mutates, "you tend to have a much milder course if you've been vaccinated."
He believes that along with the flu vaccine and "careful adherence" to current behavior guidelines—social distancing, mask-wearing, hand hygiene—should limit both the flu and COVID-19 transmission. "The main thing is that we don't want people to believe that because they're wearing a mask, they don't need a vaccine."
Australia and New Zealand are among the Southern Hemisphere countries that have had a mild flu season, in part because their populations have been following pandemic precautions, as well as having high vaccination rates.
Dr. William Schaffner of the NFID said in an interview with Healthline that the U.S. might not follow Australia's and New Zealand's flu season trend. "Our population is very divided into two groups: the really careful people and the carefree, careless people,” he said. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases says that only 59% of Americans surveyed said they would get a flu vaccine.
If your pharmacy or health care provider is out of the flu shot, ask when they may be restocked, or try another pharmacy which may have more on hand.