Reflecting on Lessons Learned from an Unpredictable Flu Season
By Dr. Michael Greenberg, Vice President, Medical Head Vaccines, North America
The 2022-2023 flu season was layered with complex challenges – including the possibility of a “triple-demic” with circulation of influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).i
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu-related hospitalizations reached their third highest rate in more than a decade during this past flu season.ii It was estimated that between October 1, 2022 through March 11, 2023, 290-620K people were hospitalized with the flu, and there were 18K-55K flu-related deaths.iii Most of these occurred in people age 65+.iv,v
The CDC reported the majority of flu viruses tested match well to the 2022-2023 flu vaccine.vi So why were hospitalization rates particularly high this flu season?ii
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing, wearing masks and other precautions likely helped reduce the spread of the flu. Consequently, when much of the world returned to pre-pandemic activities in the past year, we may have been more susceptible to infections after not being exposed to flu and RSV while working from home or attending school virtually.vii
In a survey of approximately 1,000 people conducted in August 2022, prior to the start of the 2022-2023 flu season, less than half (41%) of adults reported they planned to get their flu shot. The top reasons cited included, 41% don’t think flu vaccines work well, and 20% don’t think the flu is a serious illness.viii
These misconceptions can be dangerous. For some people, the flu is a serious and deadly viral illness that does more damage than they realize.ix It can lead to severe complications, like increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack and pneumonia, especially in higher-risk populations, such as adults age 65+, infants and young children, pregnant women and people with pre-existing conditions.x
Vaccines are the best public health tool available to help prevent people from getting sick with flu and its serious complications, and are critical to reducing the burden of this highly contagious virus.xi Flu vaccines have been shown to help reduce flu-related illness, hospitalization and death, as well as help reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick with the flu.xii
The flu is unpredictable – strains change every year and it can affect people differently. xiii The best way to help protect yourself and your community from the flu and flu-related complications is by maintaining a routine vaccination schedule and getting your flu shot every flu season.x Ahead of the 2023-2024 flu season, you can help protect yourself from illness, complications and death from the flu by getting a flu vaccine.x You can typically get a flu shot from your doctor, pharmacy or local health department for little-to-no out-of-pocket
cost.x Talk to your doctor about what options are best for you.
Sanofi remains committed to ensuring all people – especially those who are at higher-risk of flu-related infection, hospitalization and death – are aware of the potential risks associated with the flu and have access to vaccines that can help protect against the severe outcomes of flu.
For Sanofi, helping prevent the flu and its serious complications is a global public health priority. Our dynamic approach to vaccine research and development is a testament to our unwavering commitment to offering flu protection to people around the world. With our long-standing expertise and continued commitment to flu vaccination, Sanofi is proud to be a leader in flu vaccine research and manufacturing.
i Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Emergency Department Visits for COVID-19, Influenza, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncird/surveillance/respiratory-illnesses/. Accessed March 2023.
ii Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FluView Summary ending on November 26, 2022. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/weeklyarchives2022-2023/week47.htm/. Accessed March 2023.
iii Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022-2023 U.S. Flu Season: Preliminary In-Season Burden Estimates. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/preliminary-in-season-estimates.htm. Accessed March 2023.
iv Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu & People 65 Years and Older. Available at: https://cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/65over.htm. Accessed March 2023.Available at: https://cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/65over.htm. Accessed March 2023.
v Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Laboratory-confirmed Influenza Hospitalizations. Available at: https://gis.cdc.gov/GRASP/Fluview/FluHospRates.html. Accessed March 2023.
vi Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Transcript: CDC Media Telebriefing – Update on Respiratory Disease Circulation. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/t1208-Respiratory-Disease-Circulation.html. Accessed March 2023.
vii Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020-2021 Flu Season Summary. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm. Accessed March 2023.
viii National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. 2022 National Survey: Attitudes about Influenza and Pneumococcal Disease, and the Impacts of COVID-19. Available at: https://www.nfid.org/about-nfid/newsroom/news-conferences/2022-nfid-influenza-pneumococcal-disease-news-conference/2022-national-survey-attitudes-about-influenza-and-pneumococcal-disease-and-the-impacts-of-covid-19/. Accessed March 2023.
ix Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu Symptoms & Complications. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm. Accessed March 2023.
x Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People at Higher Risk of Flu Complications. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/index.htm. Accessed March 2023.
xi Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm. Accessed March 2023.
xii Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine Effectiveness: How Well Do the Flu Vaccines Work? Available at: https://cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm. Accessed March 2023.
xiii Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About Flu Forecasting. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/flusight/how-flu-forecasting.htm. Accessed March 2023.