How the US is preparing for flu season: 6 things to know 

Federal health officials and drugmakers are taking several steps to boost flu vaccinations this fall and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with the double whammy of flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic, reports The Wall Street Journal. 

Many countries in the Southern Hemisphere are reporting fewer flu cases this season, possibly an indirect benefit of measures to control the spread of COVID-19. However, health officials and other industry leaders said they can't assume these precautions will have the same effect in the U.S.

Therefore, they are preparing for the 2020-21 flu season in the following ways:

1. Drugmakers are ramping up flu shot production. AstraZeneca, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, among others, are manufacturing 200 million flu shots this year, a 13 percent increase from 2019. 

2. The CDC is launching a nationwide flu shot campaign to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated. During the 2018-19 season, only 45.3 percent of U.S. adults got the flu shot, according to the CDC. The campaign will use social media and radio messaging to highlight the benefits of vaccination to the general public, along with more targeted messaging for populations at high risk of flu complications. 

3. Sanofi will use TV commercials to target elderly populations about its flu shot designed for those 65 and up. The drugmaker is also helping physician offices roll out drive-thru or curbside flu shot services. 

4. Hospitals are ordering more flu shots. While Cleveland-based University Hospitals returned unused flu vaccines last year, the health system ordered 15 percent more this year to account for greater demand. 

5. Officials are working to expand access to the vaccine. Leaders said they want to ensure recently unemployed Americans or those who usually get the flu shot at their offices but are working remotely can get vaccinated at other locations. 

6. Pharmacies are implementing social-distancing precautions to ensure Americans' safety when receiving the flu vaccine. Many are setting up tents in parking lots, administering the vaccines curbside or requiring patients to make an appointment to manage volumes. 

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