This video is sponsored by VaxServe, a Sanofi Pasteur company.

Pharmacist: I’ve known most of my pharmacy patients for years. They’ve been with me through sickness and health, setbacks and victories, the births of their children and then grandchildren. For all of these patients, I listen, answer questions, and make sure they get the medications they need.

For me, helping to protect my patients is a true privilege. And it isn’t just my job—it’s personal. I’m a pharmacist, and I can’t imagine doing anything else every day.

Interviewer: Why did you choose pharmacy as your profession?

Pharmacist: I think it all started with my grandparents. As a kid, I was really close to them—lots of days after school, I’d walk up the street to their house. They’d tell me stories about their lives and ask me about mine. My grandpa was an old Navy man who would say things like, “Remember kid, don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff.”

In her late 50s, my grandma started to have health challenges—high blood pressure and diabetes. Grandpa got cardiovascular disease and COPD. Back then, I felt helpless to protect them.

I think that’s one of the reasons I became a pharmacist. I see people like my parents and grandparents in my pharmacy every day. And I make it my mission to help them stay healthy.
But making sure they get the right medications is only part of the story. I’m also their health advocate, their champion, and their friend.

We want to help ensure that all our patients get the immunizations and medications they need. The fact is that a lot of people can get overwhelmed—by the medications they have to keep track of, the interactions they have to watch out for, and the immunizations they should not do without. If they don’t take their medications as prescribed, or if they miss key vaccinations, a lot of things can go wrong.

Take flu vaccinations for example. I strongly recommend that everyone—especially people 50+—get vaccinated. I let them know that flu season can last from October to May. And I don’t just mention it in passing. I clearly explain why it’s absolutely urgent that patients aged 50 and older be vaccinated against influenza.

The flu can be devastating. During the 2017-18 flu season, about 800,000 adults 50+ were hospitalized due to flu-related complications.1 That same year, about 312 adults 50+ died from the flu every day.1,2

And we know that in the United States, about 90% of influenza-related deaths are in adults 65+.3

Interviewer: Why are adults 50+ so vulnerable to influenza and its complications? 

Pharmacist: One factor is a weakened immune system, which happens naturally as we age.4,5

Another is the fact that most people aged 50 and older have at least 1 chronic condition. Getting the flu can exacerbate conditions like diabetes, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular disease—and the results can be devastating.6-10

For example, in one study, people with diabetes who were infected with influenza had 3 times the risk of hospitalization, 4 times the risk of ICU admission, and 2 times the risk of death.11

In another study, patients were 6-10 times more likely to have a first heart attack in the first 3 days of influenza infection. A first stroke was 8 times more likely in the first 3 days after getting the flu.12,13

Influenza is a vaccine-preventable disease. We know that the flu vaccine is considered the best way to help prevent the flu. It’s a once-annual preventive measure that can guard against influenza and related complications in older adults.14

During the 2017-18 flu season, it is estimated that flu vaccination helped protect more than 2.5 million adults 50+ from the flu. Flu vaccination prevented more than 84,000 flu-related hospitalizations and approximately 7,600
flu-related deaths.14

People 50+ should be protected from influenza, and there are flu vaccines that may have greater efficacy for these older patients.15-18

One thing is absolutely clear. As pharmacists, one of our mandates is to ensure our patients, especially those 50+, are vaccinated against the flu. The potential consequences are so dire, and the potential rewards so great. In fact, I believe for many of our older adult patients, getting the influenza vaccination is absolutely imperative.

I love what I do. I am always grateful to my grandparents for starting me on this path. Because of them, I will never lose sight of the pharmacist’s mission—to strive for optimal outcomes for my patients, beginning with the vaccines that can help protect them.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Influenza (flu): estimated influenza illnesses, medical visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States—2017-2018 influenza season. Accessed May 13, 2019.
  2. CDC. Influenza (flu): the flu season. Accessed May 13, 2019.
  3. CDC. Estimates of deaths associated with seasonal influenza—United States, 1976-2007. MMWR. 2010;59(33):1057-1062.
  4. Monto AS, Ansaldi F, Aspinall R, et al. Influenza control in the 21st century: optimizing protection of older adults. Vaccine. 2009;27:5043-5053.
  5. Goodwin K, Viboud C, Simonsen L. Antibody response to influenza vaccination in the elderly: a quantitative review. Vaccine. 2006;24:1159-1169.
  6. CDC. Influenza (flu): people at high risk for flu complications. Accessed July 6, 2019.
  7. Wang C-S, Wang S-T, Lai C-T, Lin L-J, Chou P. Impact of influenza vaccination on major cause-specific mortality. Vaccine. 2007;25:1196-1203.
  8. 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.
  9. Gerteis J, Izrael D, Deitz D, et al. Multiple Chronic Conditions Chartbook. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2014. AHRQ publication Q14-0038.
  10. Ward BW, Schiller JS, Goodman RA. Multiple chronic conditions among US adults: a 2012 update. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014;11:E62.
  11. Hulme KD, Gallo LA, Short KR. Influenza virus and glycemic variability in diabetes: a killer combination? Front Microbiol. 2017;8:861.
  12. Kwong JC, Schwartz KL, Campitelli MA, et al. Acute myocardial infarction after laboratory-confirmed influenza infection. N Engl J Med. 2018;378:345-353.
  13. Warren-Gash C, Blackburn R, Whitaker H, McMenamin J, Hayward AC. Laboratory-confirmed respiratory infections as triggers for acute myocardial infarction and stroke: a self-controlled case series analysis of national linked datasets from Scotland. Eur Respir J. 2018;51. doi:10.1183/13993003.01794-2017.
  14. Rolfes MA, Flannery B, Chung JR, et al. Effects of influenza vaccination in the United States during the 2017-2018 influenza season [published online February 2, 2019]. Clin Infect Dis. 2019. doi:10.1093/cid/ciz075.
  15. Flublok Quadrivalent vaccine [Prescribing Information]. Meriden, CT: Protein Sciences Corporation.
  16. Dunkle LM, Izikson R, Patriarca P, et al. Efficacy of recombinant influenza vaccine in adults 50 years of age or older. N Engl J Med. 2017;376:2427-2436.
  17. Fluzone High-Dose vaccine [Prescribing Information]. Swiftwater, PA: Sanofi Pasteur Inc.
  18. \DiazGranados CA, Dunning AJ, Kimmel M, et al. Efficacy of high-dose versus standard-dose influenza vaccine in older adults. N Engl J Med. 2014;371:635-645.