Pharmacists: Frontline Cold and Flu Fighters

NOVEMBER 10, 2015
Cold and flu season is upon us, and we already know what kind of toll it is likely to take. About 40% of Americans have missed a major life event because of flu symptoms, according to a recent CVS survey. Alarmingly, 67% of working Americans reported they would go to work even if they had flu-like symptoms. In addition, US adults get 2 or 3 colds per year, and children get even more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As you well know, individuals with a cold or the flu are likely to visit their pharmacy to find relief, putting pharmacists on the front line of efforts to prevent and manage colds and the flu, primarily through patient education and administration of flu vaccinations.

For this flu season, the CDC has urged pharmacists to recognize their key role in promoting influenza immunizations. Because of the low efficacy of last season’s flu vaccine, pharmacists may have to work harder to encourage patients to get immunized. The following practice standards developed by the CDC can help pharmacists maximize their potential to curb the spread of the flu and other vaccine-preventable illnesses:
  • Review the immunization records of all patients at every clinical encounter.
  • Actively recommend vaccines that patients will need based on risk factors that include their age, health status, occupation, and lifestyle.
  • Administer the vaccine or refer patients to a vaccination provider.
  • Properly document the vaccines given to patients, either through participation in a state’s immunization registry or by following up directly with patients who have been referred elsewhere.
Motivating those who need the flu vaccine the most can be challenging. To overcome this challenge, health care providers and public health officials should adjust their communication techniques, according to an article published in Vaccine.1 The authors suggest health care professionals do the following:
  • Tailor messages to each patient’s needs and wants. Patients want to know the personal benefits of getting a flu vaccination.
  • Tell patients how others have been affected by the flu. Patients relate to personal stories, not statistics.
  • Use social media to remind patients to get vaccinated.
  • When a flu outbreak occurs, notify local media outlets.
  • Use more face-to-face, text message, and social media conversations to give patients the opportunity to ask questions and express their fears.
  • Encourage participation in immunization campaigns early, often, and broadly.
For its part in the fight against colds and the flu, Pharmacy Times offers this Cough, Cold, and Flu issue to provide prevention and treatment strategies for you and your patients. The features include “Fighting the Flu: Your Best Defenses,” “Whooping Cough: An Unwelcome Return,” and “Upper Respiratory Infections: The Lowdown.” Armed with the latest information and best practices, you will be well prepared to help yourself and your patients stay healthy throughout this cold and flu season.

Thank you for reading!

Mike Hennessy
Chairman and CEO

  1. 1. Jit M, Brewer N, McKenzie D, Odugleh-Kolev A, Suisse S. Building a new communication paradigm? can we influence flu perception? Vaccine (2015).

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