Oprah Winfrey’s message is clear: the flu and pneumonia vaccines are important. This was the take home message when the former talk show host appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and discussed a serious pneumonia illness that resulted in her hospitalization.1 

Celebrity endorsements of vaccines are a powerful tool that can hopefully help to combat the antivaccine movement. Decision making regarding vaccines can however be influenced by celebrities in a negative way, such as those who provide false information of a link between immunizations and autism.2

The National Foundation for Infectious Disease recently surveyed individuals about flu and pneumococcal disease, including their vaccine attitudes.3 The study revealed that 60% of participants agreed that influenza vaccination is the best way to prevent flu-related deaths and hospitalization. However, only 52% said they plan to get the flu vaccine this season. In addition, almost 60% of the participants at higher risk of pneumococcal disease reported that they have never been educated to get the pneumococcal vaccine.3 This study demonstrates the need for increased education and awareness about the importance of vaccines.

One pediatric death has already occurred in September, before flu season typically begins, which means this could be a potentially rough season.4 Therefore, it is important for pharmacists to continue as flu vaccine champions for the community and encourage patients to get vaccinated as soon as possible but before the end of October. 

Pneumonia can be a complication of influenza, which is an important counseling point for patients. Both vaccines can be given at the same time in different arms, which can help to increase immunization rates and ensure patients are protected.

Oprah’s endorsement for the flu and pneumonia vaccines may encourage individuals that are on the fence about immunizations to protect themselves and others. 

“Don’t play with it,” Oprah  said in her interview on the Ellen show. “Get your flu shots and get your pneumonia shots, it’s nothing to play with. It takes people out.”

With flu season just around the corner, candid discussions about complications that may arise from not receiving the vaccines are also important. Ultimately, the flu and pneumonia can lead to hospitalization and death.

 
References
  1. Shapiro N. Oprah suffered a vaccine-preventable illness. Now she’s promoting vaccines. Forbes.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/ninashapiro/2019/09/24/oprah-suffered-a-vaccine-preventable-illness-now-shes-promoting-vaccines/#87ccbe254fe1.  Published September 24, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019.
  2. Benecke O, DeYoung SE. Anti-vaccine decision-making and measles resurgence in the United States. Glob Pediatr Health.  2019;6: 2333794X19862949. [Published online July 24, 2019].  doi: 10.1177/2333794X19862949. 
  3. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. National poll: attitudes about flu and pneumococcal disease prevention. NFID website.  https://www.nfid.org/national-poll-attitudes-about-flu-and-pneumococcal-disease-prevention/. Accessed September 28, 2019.
  4. CDC. Weekly U.S. influenza surveillance report. CDC website. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm. Accessed September 28, 2019.