Title: Low COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Impacts Flu Shot Uptake in Lehigh Valley
Lehigh Valley, PA – As flu season approaches, doctors in the Lehigh Valley region are reporting a normal demand for the flu vaccine. However, hesitancy surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine seems to be deterring some individuals from receiving both shots, according to recent reports.
To encourage influenza vaccination, Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) and St. Luke’s University Health Network have organized free walk-in and drive-in flu vaccine clinics that will be available throughout October and early November. These clinics aim to make the flu shot accessible to as many individuals as possible.
Medical experts indicate that this year’s flu vaccine appears to be a good match for the dominant strains of flu, with an estimated effectiveness rate of 52% in reducing hospitalizations. So far, the uptake of the flu vaccine among St. Luke’s employees and patients has been positive, as stated by Dr. Jeffry Jahre.
At LVHN clinics, the volume of people receiving the flu vaccine remains similar to last year. However, this number is expected to double with the upcoming drive-thru clinics. Despite limited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding flu vaccine uptake, a recent survey revealed that approximately 14% of U.S. adults have already received their flu vaccine.
It is yet to be determined how severe this flu season will be, as data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health is not yet available. Dr. Jahre suggests that although influenza cases are already present in the Lehigh Valley, they have not yet reached their peak.
Encouragingly, Australia’s mild flu season provides hope, as there are currently no signs of flu and respiratory syncytial virus outbreaks in the Lehigh Valley.
In contrast to flu vaccine uptake, the COVID-19 vaccine uptake has been slower. A survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that only about half of adults intend to get vaccinated for COVID-19. LVHN has distributed approximately 5,000 doses of the new COVID-19 vaccines, primarily the Pfizer version. However, St. Luke’s does not have specific data available on COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Dr. Jahre stresses that the low uptake and hesitancy surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine may be attributed to poor communication about its capabilities. This issue needs to be addressed for better public understanding and acceptance.
Furthermore, there is some concern regarding the simultaneous administration of the flu and COVID-19 vaccines. It may be more advisable, especially for older individuals, to space out the doses. This precaution is crucial due to the potential risk of complications such as myocarditis in boys and men aged 12 to 39 who receive mRNA vaccines. Alternative options, such as the Novavax vaccine, should be considered for this age group.
Thankfully, Lehigh Valley’s current COVID-19 hospitalization rates remain low. However, health officials continue to urge people to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions to prevent a resurgence in cases.
In conclusion, while the demand for the flu vaccine remains steady in the Lehigh Valley, concerns over COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy may be limiting the number of individuals receiving both shots. Ongoing efforts to provide accessible flu vaccine clinics and improve communication regarding the COVID-19 vaccine are crucial to maintain public health in the region.
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