Physicians Champion Influenza Vaccinations

November 6, 2017   |  Tags: Blog   |  Tags: primary care , vaccinations , toolkit
Jerry Reeves

Influenza takes a considerable toll on Americans each year, causing millions of illnesses and medical visits, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. Here are important updates for encouraging your patients to protect themselves and their families this year by updating their shots.

2017–2018 Recommendation Highlights. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to recommend an annual influenza vaccination with an injectable influenza vaccine for everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant women. The recommendation not to use live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) was extended for the 2017–2018 season. The inactivated influenza vaccine information statement (VIS) will be used again this season. Full recommendations for the 2017–2018 influenza season are online at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/indrr_2017.html.

Vaccine Supply. Manufacturers have projected they will produce between 151 million and 166 million doses of injectable influenza vaccine for the 2017–2018 influenza season, which should ensure sufficient supply of vaccine. 

When to Vaccinate. Optimally, vaccination should occur before onset of influenza activity in the community. We recommend vaccination by the end of November, if possible. To avoid missed opportunities for vaccination, providers should offer vaccination during routine health care visits and hospitalizations when vaccine is available. Vaccination efforts should continue throughout the season because the duration of the influenza season varies and influenza activity might not occur in certain communities until February or March. Vaccine administered in December or later is still likely to be beneficial even if given after the influenza season has begun. 

Safe Vaccine Administration. When you “know the site and get it right,” you can help prevent shoulder injuries such as deltoid bursitis—generally caused when vaccines are injected high on the shoulder and the needle enters a shoulder bursa. This error occurs mostly among adults. The CDC provides comprehensive vaccine administration resources at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/admin/admin-protocols.html.

Below are some data that might inform your conversations with patients in the upcoming months:

Influenza vaccine can prevent flu illness and hospitalization. The CDC estimates that influenza vaccination prevented approximately 5.1 million influenza illnesses, 2.5 million influenza-associated medical visits, and 71,000 influenza associated hospitalizations during the 2015-2016 season, with an overall vaccine effectiveness of 48 percent.

Influenza vaccination was found to reduce deaths in children. A study in Pediatrics showed that influenza vaccination is effective in preventing influenza-associated deaths among children. 

Influenza vaccination may make illness milder. While some people who get vaccinated may develop influenza, vaccination may make their illness milder. A 2017 study in Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID)  showed that influenza vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized influenza patients.

Tools and resources to make your conversation with patients easier. HealthInsight has developed a toolkit with multiple resources for helping providers educate their patients and improve their vaccination rates. Included in that toolkit is a document on motivating patients to get vaccinated that can help you start the conversation. The Adult Immunizations Toolkit is available for clinicians and physician offices and home health agencies.

Updated influenza vaccine information for providers and patients is available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu.

Thank you for all you do every year to help protect your patients, families, and communities against influenza!

Dr. Jerry Reeves is Corporate Vice President of Medical Affairs of HealthInsight in Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and New Mexico, where he is responsible for clinical oversight and guidance for the quality and patient safety work performed. Dr. Reeves is very involved in the community, working with numerous providers and stakeholders to improve care.  He chairs the Nevada Partnership for Value-Driven Health Care (NPV), HealthInsight Nevada’s regional health improvement collaborative and AHRQ-designated Chartered Value Exchange. NPV priorities include 1. Expanding community health improvement collaboratives, 2. Improving care coordination, 3. Engaging consumers in better self-management of their conditions, and 4. Expanding Nevada’s clinical work force. Dr. Reeves also chairs Nevada’s multi-stakeholder Improving Diabetes and Obesity Outcomes (iDo) Council.