Beyond the Bench: Advancing Vaccine Education
This video is sponsored by VaxServe, a Sanofi Pasteur company.
Pharmacist: I‘ve always wanted to work in health care and to help others—that’s why I chose to become a pharmacy technician. What I didn’t realize was that a big part of my role as a pharm tech is to answer patients’ questions and counsel them on ways to improve their health.
Again and again, we see patients who put off getting their vaccinations, even when their health care providers have recommended them. But other patients just don’t have all the information they need to make the right decisions.
Sometimes, when I think of all the misconceptions our patients have about the flu vaccine, I think of my role as the “myth buster.”
Here’s an example. Myth #1 is “I’m already healthy!” Last week, Mrs. Jensen told me that no one in her family of 5 needs the flu vaccine because they eat organic food, wash their hands regularly, and get plenty of sleep.
First, I told her that the best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine, which is why the CDC recommends it for everyone 6 months of age and older.1
Next, I explained that for older adults with chronic conditions, like her mother, influenza could cause complications that make the risk even more serious.2-6
I’m happy to say that Mrs. Jensen and her mother both got the flu vaccine that day—and she promised to bring her dad in as well.
Myth #2 is “The shot will make me sick.”
Many of our patients have heard—and believe—this flu myth.
First, I tell patients that the flu vaccine can’t cause the flu because it is made from killed or inactivated viruses. I let them know that some people may experience a mild, 1- to 2-day reaction because the vaccine is doing its job—triggering an immune response.7
I also make sure to tell them that the flu vaccine is a simple, effective way to help protect themselves from the flu.
Myth #3 is “The flu shot doesn’t work anyway.”
This is a common belief that we hear quite a bit. But, I let them know that every year, the vaccine helps
For example, I tell them that during the 2017-2018 flu season:8
- The flu vaccine helped prevent over 7 million cases of the flu
- The vaccine was estimated to help prevent 8,000 flu-related deaths
- The vaccine helped prevent 3.7 million flu-related doctor visits and 109,000 flu-related hospitalizations
Myth #4 is “I don’t need the flu shot every year.”
To counter this, I acknowledge what they’re saying and explain that a flu vaccine is only made to protect people for one flu season.9
I tell them that every year, the CDC selects the flu strains for the vaccine based on that season’s predicted strains.9 Once patients realize that each season’s vaccine is “custom made,” so to speak, they realize that getting vaccinated last year will not protect them from getting the flu this year.
If they are age 50 or older, I share some statistics about increased risk for older patients, especially those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory issues.2-6
What I’ve found in my role as a pharm tech committed to educating my patients is that, I can make a difference. They listen to what I say, and they learn from it.
And more often than not, they say “yes” to being protected and they ask me to administer the flu vaccine right away.
- CDC. Influenza (flu): who should and who should NOT get a flu vaccine. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/whoshouldvax.htm. Accessed July 17, 2019.
- CDC. Influenza (flu): people at high risk for flu complications. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/index.htm. Accessed July 6, 2019.
- Wang C-S, Want S-T, Lai C-T, Lin L-J, Chou P. Impact of flu vaccine on major cause-specific mortality. Vaccine. 2007;25:1196-1203.
- CDC, AARP, American Medical Association. Promoting Preventive Services for Adults 50-64: Community and Clinical Partnerships. Atlanta, GA: National Association of Chronic Disease Directors; 2009.
- Gerteis J, Izrael D, Deitz D, et al. Multiple Chronic Conditions Chartbook. Rockville, MD: Agency for Health care Research and Quality; 2014. AHRQ publication Q14-0038.
- Ward BW, Schiller JS, Goodman RA. Multiple chronic conditions among US adults: a 2012 update. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014;11:E62.
- CDC. Influenza (flu): misconceptions about seasonal flu and flu vaccines. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm. Accessed July 17, 2019.
- CDC. Interim estimates of 2018-19 seasonal flu vaccine effectiveness—United States, February 2019. MMWR. 2019;68(6):135-139. Accessed July 17, 2019.
- CDC. Influenza (flu): selecting viruses for the seasonal influenza vaccine. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-selection.htm. Accessed July 17, 2019.