This week some concerns cropped up regarding pre-planning for flu season in Tennessee schools as flu vaccination pods on campuses and vaccination days were paused over the summer. Despite the unorthodox approach to this year’s flu season, the Tennessee Department of Health has released that they will be kicking off a Fight Flu TN campaign and Fight Flu Day on November 9th.
Why The Pause?
Advocacy for flu vaccination among adolescents in Tennessee comes with baggage left over from the Covid-19 vaccination campaigns. Fear of required Covid-19 vaccinations for teens and children among parents hit an all-time high this summer as Pfizer concluded their clinical studies among 5-11 year olds and began the processes of seeking FDA approval for this age group.
The alarm is exacerbated due to some political discourse in July regarding Tennessee’s top vaccination official, Michelle Fiscus, who was fired due to her stance that teens don’t need parental consent to get vaccines. In July, as the political temperature surrounding Covid-19 boiled over, Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey made the decision to cease adolescent outreach soliciting students to get any type of vaccination to ease parents’ concerns.
No Solicitation Doesn’t Mean No Flu Vax
Vaccine campaigns targeting Tennessee children and teens in school may have been paused, but the flu vaccine is still readily available and public health campaigns still advocate for it. They’ve been accompanied by a surge of press releases in which top health officials continue to voice their concerns as they anticipate a more serious flu season.
In the mayhem following Covid-19, concern over the flu disappeared from public consciousness and our hospitals. Its disappearance has been categorized as a mysterious side effect of anti-Covid-19 measures such as masking and social distancing. Now, talk of a “twindemic” has emerged as we head into flu season this year. The concerns come conveniently packaged with the notion that there are fewer precautions in place. It all seems innocent enough, but are we actually paying attention to the right things and asking the right questions? Curiously, places like Florida, which mostly stayed open during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, also experienced this mystical zero flu anomaly. Though concerns of a flu spike this year are prevalent among established health officials, the argument as to why the flu disappeared seems elusive and one dimensional conclusions leave many questions – questions that deserve further scrutiny and exploration.