This article is sponsored by Novavax.
In this special sponsored episode. I’m joined by Dr. Filip Dubovsky, chief medical officer at Novavax, to discuss topics like COVID-19 and influenza in the fall and winter seasons, the importance of education to understand your vaccine options while given the freedom to make that choice, navigating misinformation, and mistrust, what’s next as a society and the details in between.
Through human evolution, we know that prevention is better than treatment, so how do we explain that only about 68 percent of the American population has received their primary COVID-19 vaccine series? Additionally, although booster shots have been available to all adults for nearly a year, and many may be eligible for a second booster, less than 50 percent of people over the age of five in the U.S. have received their first booster dose.
The current influenza and COVID-19 landscape
“Our health organizations have known for decades that vaccination is the best protection against influenza,” says Dr. Dubovsky. “And we’ve learned over the past two and a half years that vaccination against COVID-19 is critical.”
In the fall and winter seasons, experts are anticipating a COVID-19 surge similar to what we saw last year, and we know best as a community never to bet against a virus. This surge will likely overlap with the influenza season, which is expected to escalate based on this year’s Australian flu season.
Recently, we’ve seen spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations globally. Thankfully, we have vaccine options with multiple technology platforms, including the three main types of COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S.: mRNA, protein-based, and viral vector.
Receiving an annual flu shot and staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, which include boosters, are essential to help with protection. The convergence of COVID-19 and flu can exacerbate the negative effects of both diseases, as people with flu and COVID-19 at the same time can have more severe disease than people with either flu or COVID-19 alone.
The importance of vaccine options
From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our world’s technology has evolved in terms of available vaccines. There are now COVID-19 vaccine options, including vaccines that use traditional vaccine technology, which have already been used to help prevent other infectious diseases. COVID-19 vaccine options may help decrease vaccine hesitancy by giving people the freedom to choose the best option for them. Additionally, diverse racial and ethnic representation in COVID-19 vaccine trials is important to reflect our diverse populations and determine the vaccines that benefit each population or region the most. Having multiple vaccine options may reduce the risk of shortages when vaccines are needed most and offers people flexibility in their immunization choices.
Public health experts and doctors should continue to educate people about their COVID-19 vaccine options. With continued public education and awareness about the safety and efficacy of the various vaccine options, more trust may be built in our communities in vaccine options and, therefore, confidence in vaccine options.
People should talk to their doctor about what is right for them. Individuals may be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine during the same visit if they are eligible.
Navigating misinformation: Prevention is better than having to receive treatment, and vaccines are intended to help prevent people from falling seriously ill and potentially dying. Unfortunately, vaccine hesitancy has contributed to the emergence of new variants and ongoing waves of infection.
Misinformation and misunderstanding of vaccines have increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the data and guidelines around the virus are constantly evolving. This highlights the need to share accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines, respond to gaps in information, and confront misinformation with evidence.
Where do we go from here? Globally, we need to continue to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated in the effort to transition from a pandemic to an endemic phase. This won’t be the last pandemic the world will see, but if everyone does their part to focus on the public health need for prevention and protection, vaccination can potentially lessen the impact of disease.
Lastly, we must underscore the importance of staying up to date on vaccinations, especially in the fall and winter as COVID-19 and flu season converge. Different vaccine options are available at this point in the pandemic, so people should be encouraged to have conversations with their doctors or pharmacists to determine what’s right for them.
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