6 Things to Remember for the Upcoming Flu Season
Last year's flu vaccine efficacy was less than desirable, so pharmacists may have to work harder this year to encourage patients to get immunized again.
Last year’s flu vaccine efficacy was less than desirable, so pharmacists may have to work harder this year to encourage patients to get immunized again.
While it is impossible to forecast how harsh or mild the 2015-2016 flu season will be, pharmacists can still remind patients that even if this year’s vaccine is lacking in terms of efficacy, getting immunized can make the illness feel less severe.
In fact, the 2014-2015 influenza vaccine reduced an individual’s risk of flu-related medical visits by 23%, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC will be monitoring the efficacy of this year’s influenza vaccine via the flu shot and the nasal spray throughout the upcoming flu season. Studies are planned for testing the efficacy in preventing laboratory-confirmed flu in patients 6 months or older.
In the meantime, here are 6 things to remember for the upcoming flu season:
1. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations
The ACIP advises that individuals 6 months or older receive a live, attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) or an inactivated influenza vaccine “with no preference expressed for either vaccine when either one is otherwise appropriate,” according to the CDC. This recommendation was made by the ACIP on February 26, 2015.
Last year, the CDC reported that LAIV was preferred for healthy children aged 2 to 8 years, but the ACIP did not renew this recommendation for the upcoming flu season.
More information about immunization recommendations is forthcoming in a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
2. This flu season’s vaccines
The 2015-2016 flu vaccines protect against an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus, an A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 (H3N2)-like virus, and a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus, according to the CDC. In addition, some quadrivalent vaccines protect against a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
The most common viruses that circulate are H1N1, H3N2, and influenza B, according to the CDC.
Pharmacists should encourage the parents of children aged between 6 months and 8 years who need 2 doses of the flu vaccine to receive the first immunization early before the flu season starts. After at least 4 weeks, children can receive the second dose.
3. Peak of the flu season
Flu season is at its worst between December and February, but flu activity typically occurs between October and May. Pharmacists should thus encourage patients to receive the vaccine as soon as it becomes available—ideally in October.
“However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated,” the CDC stated.
4. Quantity of the vaccine
Manufacturers expect distribute between 164.5 million and 173.5 million doses of this year’s flu vaccine. However, this amount may change as the flu season approaches, according to the CDC.
Washing hands, avoiding sick people, and staying home when sick can help prevent flu transmission. In the 2013-2014 flu season, 85.7% of pharmacists reported receiving a flu shot. However, rates were higher for physicians (92.2%), nurses (90.5%), nurse practitioners, and physician assistants (89.6%).
Pharmacists should avoid being a part of the 83% of health care professionals who report going to work sick at least once a year.
According to the CDC, antiviral prescription drugs are typically used for children younger than 2 years, adults 65 years or older, pregnant women, and those with certain medical conditions. The CDC also recommends that patients who are hospitalized because of the flu receive antivirals.
Overall, there is evidence that antivirals are underprescribed for patients at high risk of complications who get the flu, the CDC maintained. The drugs are most effective within 48 hours of getting sick.
Oseltamivir, zanamivir, and peramivir are recommended for use this flu season.