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NYSHealth Foundation Issues Report: “Preparing for New York’s Flu Season During a Pandemic”

A new New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) report, Preparing for New York’s Flu Season During a Pandemic, was released last week. The report examines why early and aggressive flu preparation in New York is needed to limit preventable deaths, counter the widening of racial and ethnic health disparities already worsened by COVID-19, and reduce added strain on the health care system. It explores the new challenges presented by the pandemic and innovative approaches to achieve high flu vaccination rates. The report also offers key actions and strategies that have the potential to mitigate the harm of a co-occurring COVID-19 pandemic and influenza season this fall.

Key takeaways of the report include the following:

  • The upcoming flu season could increase the difficulty of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for many reasons, including the following:
    • Large influxes of flu patients will make it more challenging for providers to discern between flu and COVID-19 and potentially increase already significant demand for COVID-19 testing.
    • Managing testing and triaging flu patients will potentially deter providers from safely triaging and treating COVID-19 patients.
    • Patients with flu will be at greater risk for poor COVID-19 health outcomes if they become infected.
  • The flu season could worsen racial and ethnic health disparities – magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic – as people of color in New York State have historically had lower flu vaccination rates.
  • Even if New York State’s flu cases do not surpass last year’s record-setting number, a more typical infection rate could still overstress the health care system amidst the pandemic.
  • For these reasons, it will be more important than ever for New York to take early and aggressive actions to encourage uptake of the flu vaccine this year, including increased number of vaccination locations, greater outreach reflecting the state’s diverse population, and efforts to counter rising misinformation regarding vaccines.

Contact: Dan Heim, dheim@leadingageny.org, 518-461-2934