If you’ve ever had the flu, you know the misery it brings – stuffy nose, sore throat, body aches, fever and chills. It can sometimes take weeks before you get back to full health.

Each year, annual flu epidemics occur in the U.S. and around the world. Although the timing, intensity and length varies from one season to another, flu represents a significant public health problem that affects millions of Americans and is associated with hospitalizations and deaths in people of all ages.

Vaccinate Annually for Prevention

Flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, so the available supply depends on their efforts. Unfortunately, influenza is unpredictable. Manufacturers need to make calculated best guesses on how much to produce of each type of flu vaccine as well as where and when to send supplies.

For the 2019-2020 season, they’re projected to supply 162 million to 169 million doses of influenza vaccine but exactly how that breaks down is still being determined.

Flu Season Vaccine Supply Challenges

Consider some of the challenges manufacturers have already faced in the 2019-2020 flu season:

Shortages have been reported in some areas for the higher-dose influenza vaccine given to people over the age of 65, according to Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Tennessee.

The flu season typically peaks between December and February, but flu illnesses began showing up in the southern and southeastern regions of the U.S. in early fall.

Manufacturers had to delay shipments of the regular flu vaccine in September 2019 to adjust the formula. The delay was caused by the World Health Organization (WHO), which postponed its selection of the influenza A (H3N2) strain to be included in the vaccine after observing antigenic drift (new mutations) in the circulating strain 25.

There’s no doubt that early insights into the strain of flu and the path it’s taking across the country are critical to:

  • Determining vaccine production
  • Allocating supply
  • Distributing by state and facility type
  • Communicating to the public
  • Implementing strategies to combat its spread

But can those insights be gleaned early enough to make a difference?

By incorporating claims data and yearly trend analytics into planning, vaccine manufacturers and pharmacists can better inform their decisions. They can uncover and understand patterns within the data, and then use those insights to adjust their plans for production and distribution of vaccines.

Ultimately, better intelligence about flu patients offers the opportunity to improve flu preventive care and lower healthcare costs. 

Want to know more? Check out our 2019 U.S. Influenza Statistics infographic.