Drugmakers manufacturing more flu shots than ever to avoid overwhelming hospitals this fall

The country’s largest drugmakers are significantly scaling up their flu vaccine production to mitigate a potentially disastrous collision of flu and COVID-19 outbreaks this fall, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Pharmaceutical companies are making roughly 200 million flu shots this year, WSJ reported. This is a 13 percent increase from last year and marks a record number of doses manufactured, according to the CDC.

“We don’t want there to be an overwhelming of the healthcare system,” Leonard Friedland, MD, GlaxoSmithKline’s director of scientific affairs and public health, told WSJ. “We don’t want to have a patient in the [intensive care unit] on a ventilator for influenza when that hospital bed and ventilator could potentially be used for a [COVID-19] patient.”

GlaxoSmithKline began shipping about 50 million flu shots in July, a 10 percent increase from last year.

Some public health officials are concerned about how many Americans will seek out their flu shots this fall, as many are avoiding healthcare settings altogether during the pandemic, and many who received the shot at their employer’s offices are now unemployed or working from home.

Sanofi manufactures a flu vaccine designed for older patients and plans to air television ads targeting them, as well as work with physician offices to create curbside or drive-thru vaccination programs, according to Elaine O’Hara, Sanofi’s head of North America commercial operations.

“It’s one thing to produce and ship and deliver 80 million doses of influenza vaccine to the marketplace, but if the vaccine doesn’t wind up in arms, then you haven’t met your goal,” Ms. O’Hara told WSJ.

AstraZeneca is also working to ensure a healthy vaccination rate by helping physicians create mobile flu shot clinics, according to Fred Peruggia, its executive director of marketing for respiratory biologics.

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