Woman with tissue, illnessThe swimming pool has been traded for the football field and the cooler temperatures signal the start of the next season: cold and flu season. When stocking up on cough drops and decongestant at the local food or drug store, individuals also have the opportunity to get an influenza vaccination. There are, in fact, nine different types of influenza vaccination recommended for different age groups and health conditions.

“I think we, as pharmacists, do a pretty good job of educating our patients. Hopefully, if we are doing our part, our patients benefit from the recommendations,” commented Jeff Jacobson, Pharm D, from Southpointe Pharmacy in Fargo, ND.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 41.7% of the United States population received an influenza vaccination during the 2017-2018 flu season compared to the 47.1% from the previous two seasons.¹  The CDC also estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9.3 million – 49.0 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 960,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 79,000 deaths annually since 2010.¹

Dr Stephan Schroeder, medical director for South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care“Immunization rates among adults in the United States remain below envisioned targeted goals for the population,” explained South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care’s Medical Director Stephan Schroeder, MD, CMD, CMQ. “The rates can be enhanced with convenient, easily accessible sites such as dedicated vaccine clinics, pharmacies, workplace and public health facilities.”

Age and health condition can increase the risk for complications including progression to pneumonia or even sepsis. Those at high risk from influenza exposure include Individuals 65 years and older and those diagnosed with one of more chronic health conditions. Healthcare providers are valued and trusted resources for health information. A recommendation for vaccination serves as the strongest influence for increasing immunization rates.

Nikki Medalen“As a public health nurse, my job has always been to focus on the health of populations,” explained Nikki Medalen, MS, BSN, quality improvement specialist for Quality Health Associates of North Dakota. “Getting vaccinated is one way to protect the people you care most about – those around you at home, work, school, church, and socially.”

Flu activity typically increases in October and peak between December and February. Vaccination can occur at any time during the season; however, Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting the flu vaccine by the end of October as it takes two weeks for the body to develop immunity.

Medalen added, “My patients are impacted by my vaccination status. Working with vulnerable people every day made me realize life is fragile.”

Great Plains QIN is actively working with providers, patients, partners and stakeholders to implement best practices to increase immunization rates for influenza, pneumococcal disease and herpes zoster. A Shot in the Arm for Immunization Registry was held on September 24, 2019, to increase awareness of immunization and highlight the value of proper documentation and tracking among various locations administering vaccinations.

Source: Estimated Influenza Illnesses, Medical visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths in the United States — 2017–2018 influenza season; https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html