4 New Flu Findings for Techs to Know

With flu season well under way, many pharmacy technicians have found themselves directing a myriad of flu-related questions to pharmacists.

With flu season well under way, many pharmacy technicians have found themselves directing a myriad of flu-related questions to pharmacists.

While techs may not be able to address all of their patients’ concerns, they may still find it worthwhile to remain informed on the latest influenza research. A number of recent studies have made notable findings on the disease that techs might be interested to know, including:

1. Many Patients Remain Unsure of Flu Vaccine Effectiveness

Despite increased efforts by pharmacists and other health care providers to encourage seasonal flu immunization, a number of patients continue to question the benefits of receiving the vaccine.

In a recent survey of 2225 adults conducted by Harris Poll, only 43% strongly believed that the influenza vaccine could prevent the disease, with nearly one-third of participants expressing doubt that immunization could help them avoid the flu at all.

Comparatively, 70% of respondents strongly agreed that handwashing could protect them against the flu, while 63%, 54%, and 48% strongly believed that there are preventative benefits to rest, a healthy diet, and weather-appropriate clothing, respectively. The use of vitamins and hand sanitizer were each strongly supported by 37% of participants, though only about 20% strongly agreed that there are preventative benefits to homeopathic remedies.

Alarmingly, 66% of participants claimed to continue going to work when they are sick, and 42% believed that the public takes the flu season too seriously. However, 51% limit their contact with children during flu season, while 35% avoid public transportation.

Additionally, 20% responded that, when they develop the flu, they take OTC products such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen when they have an above-normal temperature.

Overall, older patients tended to believe in the efficacy of immunization more than younger ones, 75% of patients aged 70 years or older—the population at the highest risk of influenza-related hospitalization—strongly agreeing that that flu vaccine could help prevent the disease, compared with 47% of baby boomers, 35% of Generation X, and 33% of millennials.

2. Important Life Events Often Missed Due to Flu Symptoms

The emergence of flu-like symptoms is enough to make many Americans rethink their plans to attend important events, according to a survey conducted by CVS.

Of the survey’s 2024 adult participants, nearly 40% had decided against attending an important events after developing signs of the flu. The most frequently missed events among the respondents were family gatherings (17%), get-togethers with friends (17%) and work meetings or presentations (14%).

Vacations, family gatherings, weddings, graduations, and birthday parties were listed by the participants as the life events that would cause the most distress if missed as a result of flu symptoms.

However, 92% of respondents reported taking preventative measures against the flu such as washing their hands, drinking more water, taking vitamins, eating more nutritious food, sanitizing surfaces, and using hand sanitizer.

Additionally, 58% of participants answered that they received their flu shot every year or planned to get vaccinated this year; the most commonly reported reasons for doing so were to protect themselves against the flu, prevent transmitting the disease to family members, and avoid missing important life events.

All patients older than 6 months should be immunized against the flu as soon as the season’s vaccine is available, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

3. Higher Vaccination Rates Needed Among Taxi Drivers

Due their frequent close contact with a number of different individuals, taxi drivers are important targets for flu vaccination.

In an intervention-based attempt to better understand vaccination rates among this population, a research team from the University of Chicago held 1-day mass immunization clinics at airport taxi holding lots outside of O’Hare International and Midway Airports. The clinicians ultimately succeeded at immunizing 11% of approached drivers in October 2012 and 7% in October 2013.

The researchers attributed the lower 2013 rates to rainy weather on the day of the clinic, which deterred a number of drivers from receiving their vaccine. Other reasons given by drivers for refusing immunization included safety concerns, lack of perceived risk for developing the flu, and concerns about acquiring the disease from vaccination.

While the study authors noted that feedback from the vaccinated was generally positive, they emphasized that further efforts should be made to educate taxi drivers about the important of immunization in their line of work.

The research team’s findings were published in the Journal of Community Health.

4. Skipping Flu Shot Increases Pneumonia Risk

Patients who forgo their seasonal flu vaccine are putting themselves at greater risk of not only the disease itself, but also related complications such as pneumonia.

In an attempt to understand whether flu vaccines can prevent pneumonia, researchers from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine analyzed data on 2767 patients who were hospitalized for community-acquired pneumonia.

Of the 162 pneumonia patients who also had confirmed cases of influenza, only 28 (17%) had been vaccinated, compared with 766 (29%) of the remaining 2605 patients who tested negative for the flu.

“[T]hose with laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pneumonia, compared with those with pneumonia not associated with influenza, had lower odds of having received influenza vaccination,” the study authors concluded.

Their findings were published in JAMA.