The Inherent Links in COVID-19, Flu Prevention

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Strategic Alliance Partnership | <b>Rutgers School of Public Health</b>

A public health expert discusses how the future of COVID-19 may be managed similarly to flu—and why vaccination efforts are similarly burdened.

The current hope for COVID-19, as it wages historic outbreaks throughout the early days of 2022 in the US, is that the more transmissible but less severe Omicron variant is an indication of nearing endemic status in a pandemic that has continued relatively unchecked for 20 months straight.

What that means for the future of COVID-19 prevention and care is still unclear, but changes may be familiar.

In an interview with HCPLive, Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, MS, MPH, Dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, explained how COVID-19 may evolve into a circulating disease more similar to influenza—and how they may even become treated in similar ways.

“It is very possible that at some point in time there will be 1 vaccination for both, or we get both vaccinations at the same time,” Halkitis said. “I think it’s really important to note we’ve been dealing with the flu and trying to manage it for a century. Where we are in 2022 is sort of predicated by where we were in 1918 when we’re dealing with a pandemic similar to COVID-19.”

Unfortunately, after 2 years of public health guidance, people are “absolutely exhausted” from the pandemic, Halkitis, and the country is now facing significant outbreaks because of relent from safe practices. He noted decreasing influenza vaccination rates may be directly associated with similar issues in COVID-19—a matter which has become highly politicized.

“It’s illuminated this split that exists in our society,” Halkitis said. “People are just grouping them together. Unfortunately what has happened is the anti-vaccination movement—which is nothing new—just getting ramped up and giving people further justification for avoiding vaccines they know are tested and true, just because they’re avoiding the COVID-19 one.”