Axne Urges Use of COVID-19 Testing Sites to Offer Flu Vaccine

October 14, 2020
Press Release
As officials warn of deadly combination of flu and coronavirus infections, predictions show many Americans planning to skip flu shots

Today, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) urged federal health agencies to utilize established testing sites for coronavirus (COVID-19) to assist in distributing vaccines for the seasonal flu.

In a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Rep. Axne urged this expansion of flu vaccination offerings in the midst of concerns raised by national infectious disease experts over concurrent COVID-19 and seasonal flu outbreaks. 

“Traditionally, flu vaccination is a simple process that is distributed at many of the health centers we engage with in our normal lives,” wrote Rep. Axne. “I am asking the CDC and CMS to offer a flu vaccine alongside a COVID-19 test this year. This would significantly increase general access to the vaccine while placing little administrative burden on our doctors, nurses, and trained medical professionals.”

Earlier this month, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and other medical experts emphasized the importance of getting a flu shot to prevent the potential for overlapping crises that would further burden hospital capacity and medical staffs across the U.S.

Despite these warnings, a recent national NFID survey found that only slightly more than half of Americans reported that they intend to get a flu shot during the 2020-2021 flu season.

The survey also found that 1 in 4 Americans would be more likely to be vaccinated during the 2020-2021 flu season if flu vaccines were available in additional settings like drive-thru clinics.

With existing COVID-19 testing infrastructure expanded across all corners of the U.S., Rep. Axne suggests in her letter that this pairing of offerings could help mitigate the declining visits to health clinics because of COVID-19 transmission fears.

The full text of her letter can be found here:

Dear Director Redfield and Administer Verma, 

I am writing to request that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) work to expand access to the flu vaccine this fall. I am offering my assistance to ensure that the flu vaccines can be administered at established COVID-19 testing locations as well as other central community locations throughout our nation.

The impact of COVID-19 on Iowa and this country has been crippling. COVID-19 cases continue to increase, hospitalizations are spiking and medical experts have raised concerns about a fall and winter COVID-19 increase. Traditionally, flu vaccination is a simple process that is distributed at many of the health centers we engage with in our normal lives. A vaccine can be offered during a checkup at the doctor’s office or while filling a prescription at a pharmacy. However, COVID-19 has resulted in an underutilization of these health centers, as many Americans are avoiding them to reduce potential exposure to COVID-19.

I am asking the CDC and CMS to offer a flu vaccine alongside a COVID-19 test this year. This would significantly increase general access to the vaccine while placing little administrative burden on our doctors, nurses, and trained medical professionals. If you determine that the law prohibits this, I am offering to work with your agencies to craft legislation to ensure we can expand vaccine access as needed during this pandemic.

We must work together to meet the American public where they are in the new reality of COVID-19. Surveys show us that Americans are avoiding medical centers during COVID-19, which means they are not going to have easy access to a flu vaccine. Many individuals, especially our seniors, who are at high risk due to COVID-19 are also at high risk due to the flu. We cannot offer the same services in the same places in a year when everything has changed. 

That is why I am asking you to expand flu vaccinations into new locations as part of your COVID-19 response authorities. I know we share the common goal of preventing illness – be that COVID-19 or the flu. I offer any support I can to ensure that we meet the challenge of a new flu season during a global pandemic. 

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