Are We Ready For An Epidemic? Influenza Preparedness Report


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Influenza virus strains vary each year, which means that some years there are more mild cases and other years there are more severe cases – and every year, the flu vaccine has to be different. Photo by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccine shortages during epidemic or pandemic flu outbreaks are a real problem. The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) is a non-profit group that works to make disease prevention a national priority.

The TFAH group wrote a report that shows how because there is less than half of Americans getting vaccinated against the flu, vaccine manufactures are only making enough to meet the demand. The problem comes in when flu seasons like this one is widespread and more people want a vaccine, it creates a shortage. The TFAH report also outlines ways that the public health system can improve upon disaster response and preparedness.

Vaccine Shortage: Why Does It Happen?

TFAH’s report outlines some of the reasons that the vaccine shortage occurrs – and why it is occurring with this year’s epidemic-level flu season. One of the main reasons we’ve experienced a vaccine shortage occurred is the low number of people who have been getting vaccinated. Historically there has been a low demand for flu shots – less than half of Americans get a flu vaccine.

In the TFAH report they cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s statistic that as of November 2012, it was estimated that 35.6 percent of Americans six months and older had been vaccinated against the flu. This is the number that vaccine manufactures use to estimate the number of flu vaccines to produce the next year. The problem with this, TFAH reports, is that during severe flu seasons, like this year’s, more people will want a vaccine, thus creating a shortage.

In the report, executive director, Jeffrey Levi, Ph.D. stated, “The flu is an annual threat.  Some years, like this one, the threat is more severe than others.  The problem is we let our guard down during mild seasons and then we aren’t ready when a harder season hits. We need to maintain a steady defense and make annual flu vaccinations – and the manufacture of sufficient supply — a much higher priority every year.” 

Flu Epidemics: Public Health Response Improvements

The TFAH report came up with some actions to increase preparedness and policies – providing a more efficient response to influenza seasons when they are worse than normal. An actionable list will help public health professionals and healthcare professionals to respond to shortages at any point during the flu season without delay.

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