3 Things Technicians Should Know for the Upcoming Flu Season


With students heading back to school and flu season on the horizon, pharmacy technicians will soon experience a surge of patients requesting their flu shot and other vaccinations.

With students heading back to school and flu season on the horizon, pharmacy technicians will soon experience a surge of patients requesting their flu shot and other vaccinations.

In recognition of National Immunization Awareness Month, technicians looking to stay up-to-date on the latest flu vaccine research should read the following study findings:

1. Nasal Spray Flu Shot Should Not Be Used

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recently advised pharmacists and other health care professionals against administering AstraZeneca’s FluMist Quadravalent nasal spray flu vaccine during the 2016-2017 flu season.

The committee based its recommendation on data from the 2015-2016 flu season that estimated FluMist Quadrivalent’s effectiveness against any flu virus at only 3%, compared with the 63% effectiveness associated with last season’s traditional flu shots. FluMist Quadrivalent also demonstrated poor or lower than expected vaccine effectiveness during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 flu seasons, according to CDC data.

AstraZeneca contested the recommendations, stating that its own studies have indicated that the nasal spray vaccine was 46% to 58% effective overall against the circulating influenza strains during the 2015-2016 season. The manufacturer plans to work with the CDC to help the committee better understand its research.

Initially approved in 2003 for the prevention of influenza in patients aged 2to 49 years, FluMist Quadrivalent is currently the only nasal spray flu vaccine available on the market.

2. Vaccination Rates Are Low Among Diabetic Patients

Although patients with diabetes face a greater risk of infection than nondiabetic patients, recent study results indicate that this population is underimmunized for vaccine-preventable conditions such as hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease, and the flu.

The study, published in Clinical Diabetes, performed a cross-sectional analysis of vaccination rates among patients with diabetes and found that adherence to established immunization guidelines was considerably inadequate. For example, not a single participant in the study had been vaccinated against hepatitis B. Additionally, while the pneumococcal immunization rate in patients with diabetes was fairly consistent with the national average, the influenza vaccination rate was lower than expected.

Fortunately, pharmacists may be able to play a role in correcting this insufficiency due to their regular contact with diabetic patients, according to study author Matthew J. Alcusky, PharmD.

“Pharmacists have long been active in increasing vaccine adherence among patients with diabetes, as well as in the broader population,” Dr. Alcusky told Pharmacy Times. “…Across care settings, the identification and immunization of high-risk patients, such as those with diabetes, represents one of many important pharmacist activities within a collaborative and accountable care paradigm.”

3. Immunizing Pregnant Women Can Protect Babies from the Flu

Pregnant women who vaccinate themselves against the flu may be helping to prevent their newborns from contracting the virus, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine analyzed data on 245,386 women who had delivered babies between December 2005 and March 2014, about 10% of whom had received their flu shot during pregnancy. After identifying infants had had influenza-like illness (ILI), laboratory-confirmed influenza, and influenza hospitalizations, the research team determined that babies born to immunized women had a 64% reduced risk of ILI, a 70% reduced risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza, and an 81% reduced risk for influenza hospitalizations in their first 6 months of life.

The study authors expressed hope that their findings will help to educate pregnant women on the benefits of vaccination and encourage them to get their seasonal flu shot.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices both currently recommend that all pregnant women, as well as women who plan to become pregnant, receive an inactivated influenza vaccine.

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