Statistics suggest that a negative trend has been at work. Just a couple of years ago, the CDC estimated that only 37.1% of adults in the U.S. were vaccinated—a decrease of more than six percentage points from the previous season. More alarmingly, from October 1, 2018 through March 30, 2019, as many as 38.1 million cases of influenza were reported in the U.S., representing highs of 549,000 hospitalizations and 50,900 deaths.
Overcoming objections—starting with—your own?
There are many reasons why people tend to go without their flu vaccinations. Young, healthy adults often don’t feel much cause for concern as they feel their unaided immune systems can do the job. Others, who haven’t had the flu for many years, forget how badly they were once knocked off their feet. There’s even an unfortunately growing minority who believe they can or did get the flu from the vaccine itself.
No doubt you already know the latter isn’t possible, as confirmed by the CDC. Yet, the former examples do apply as reasons why some healthcare professionals, both inside and outside the pharmacy business, look the other way. If any ring true, here are a few points worth considering, as well as conveying to your patients:
- Time is on your side. Flu shots have been in use since the 1940s, when the earliest vaccine was developed to protect against a single strain of the disease, influenza A. Now, with the advent of bivalent vaccines for both influenza A and B, and continuing development of more complex trivalent vaccines treating all four species of the flu virus (including C and D), hundreds of millions of people have been safely vaccinated.
- No live virus is present. Only inactive influenza virus strands or laboratory-made particles designed to trigger the same immune responses by the body are used in modern flu vaccines. Any accompanying muscle ache, fever or fatigue that does represent is caused by the shot itself, not the vaccine. Most years, the CDC reports flu shots are between 40-60% effective.
- Don’t let it pass. No matter the strength of any given immunological makeup, it’s possible for otherwise healthy people to carry and transmit the flu virus to others. That cause for concern becomes a cause for alarm for caregivers of young children or of older adults suffering from a chronic respiratory condition or at risk of contracting pneumonia. It’s always best to let it rest.
As part of the Benzer Pharmacy Flu Cru, standard operating procedures always apply, and that means—barring any medical complication—all employees who can get the flu shot, should get the flu shot. That, of course, goes double if you’re aged 59-or-older and prone to a diminishing immune system.