Community Flu Prevention Education to Change Misconceptions

JANUARY 01, 2018
Flu prevention education is a great opportunity for pharmacists to change misconceptions.

I recently educated staff members of my community gym on influenza prevention to help spread the word about various health strategies including the influenza vaccine. An email blast was distributed to let the staff know of the presentation. I encouraged the audience to ask questions about flu prevention.

The staff reported learning new tips, and they walked away with vital prevention strategies including the importance of an annual influenza vaccine, frequent handwashing, and avoiding close contact with individuals who are sick. Educational printed material from the CDC was also provided. Additionally, I reviewed the most recent CDC weekly flu surveillance report, which demonstrated that influenza activity has sharply increased in the United States.1  One staff member who was undecided about the influenza vaccine followed-up with me that he decided to receive it.  It was very rewarding to educate the staff and make a difference in their health.   

Here are interesting questions that were introduced during the presentation:

Question: Can my child just receive one dose of the flu vaccine if this is the first time he is receiving it?
Answer: Children 6 months through 8 years of age require 2 doses of the influenza vaccine administered at least 28 days apart during their first season of vaccination for the best response.2

Question: Is it too late to get the flu vaccine?
Answer: This is a good time to get the influenza vaccine, especially since flu activity has started to increase in the United States.  Flu activity generally peaks between December and February, and the season can even last until May.

Question: I heard that you can get the flu from the vaccine, is this true?
Answer:  Individuals cannot become infected with the flu from the influenza vaccine. Keep in mind that it does take 2 weeks for the vaccine to become effective once it is administered.  The most common side effects associated with the flu vaccine include pain and soreness at the injection site.

Question: Is it true that the flu vaccine may only be 10% effective this year?
Answer: The 10% that has been reported in the media is an estimate of Australia’s flu vaccine efficacy against one virus (H3N2) that circulated in Australia during its most recent flu season.2  One thing to keep in mind is that Australia encourages vaccination for the elderly population and those with certain medical conditions, which focuses less on preventive medicine.  The flu vaccine is only available for free under Australia’s National Immunisation Program for the following populations: individuals 65 years of age and older; Aboriginal and Torres Strait people 6 months to less than 5 years of age; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years of age and older; pregnant women; and individuals 6 months and older with certain medical conditions.3  The U.S. follows the CDC guidance that everyone 6 months of age and older should receive the influenza vaccine.  During the previous season, the overall flu vaccine efficacy in the U.S. against all circulating viruses was 39%, and was 32% effective against H3N2.2  Additionally, the vaccine efficacy against other flu viruses such as H1N1 or B was higher.  The vaccine efficacy in the U.S. for the current flu season will be available later after more data is available.

References
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Weekly U.S. influenza surveillance report.  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm. Accessed December 22, 2017.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frequently asked flu questions 2017-2018 influenza season.  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2017-2018.htm.  Accessed December 22, 2017.
  3. Immunise Australia Program.  Influenza.  http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/immunise-influenza.  Accessed December 22, 2017.


Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2
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