What Independent Practices Can Do to Address the Flu

This year’s flu has been less virulent in some areas, much more so in others. Whether you have had a flu shot or not, influenza can result in serious complications including hospitalizations and even death.1 The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends annual influenza vaccinations for all persons aged 6 months or older who do not have contraindications.1

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu cases and flu-related hospitalizations have risen sharply since October 2019, with at least 6.4 million reported cases and 55,000 hospitalizations. In addition, the CDC reports that the flu has taken the lives of more than 2900 Americans (27 pediatric) over the past few months. Although the flu is unpredictable, the trajectory of this season’s flu activity is on pace to be the deadliest in nearly a half-century.2

For some independent practices, flu vaccine shipments were delayed, according to a letter sent by flu vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur. The delay may push out the typical starting time for vaccinations, but they should arrive in plenty of time to keep patients protected from this year’s virulent strains. Vaccines were to arrive no later than the end of November, which provides time to offer protection from the typical peak flu months - December through February.3

Clinicians can easily alert their patients when flu vaccines arrive at their practice with broadcast messaging and customized reminders via their EHR. These customized notifications can be sent by a simple text message without much disruption to both the clinician and the patient. Some independent practices offer flu clinics for their patients allowing convenient accessibility to vaccines without having to wait on an appointment time or risking exposure to those already experiencing flu symptoms.

In addition to the flu vaccine being the best form of protection against seasonal flu, please remind patients that frequent handwashing with soap and water and avoiding close contact with sick individuals are the next best forms of protection.1 It is also important to encourage patients to wear masks when they are around others who may potentially be sick and have weakened immune systems.

As a practicing pharmacist, I play a vital role in patient education and administration of influenza vaccines. Pharmacists are trained in school, before even stepping foot into practice, on the proper techniques for storage, patient administration, documentation, and disposal of the vaccines.1 I highly encourage and recommend clinicians to visit the CDC vaccination website to address any additional questions and concerns that may arise when treating patients. In addition, frequently check your distributor’s website and communications for updates on vaccine supplies and availability dates.

References:

  1. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/contributor/jennifer-gershman-pharmd-cph/2019/08/influenza-vaccine-recommendations-for-the-20192020-flu-season
  2. https://www.empr.com/home/news cdc-warns-of-tough-flu-season-ahead/
  3. https://www.medicaleconomics.com/immunization-awareness-month/some-flu-shot-shipments-will-be-delayed?