Correlation Between Vaccines and Flu Transmissions


Adam C. Welch, PharmD, MBA, FAPhA, evaluates the impact of yearly flu vaccinations on curtailing the spread of influenza among communities and populations.

Rodney E. Rohde, PhD, MS, SM (ASCP) CM, SVCM, MBCM, FACSc: One thing I often talk to patients about is that the vaccine and good public health measures are all about risk reduction. Mr Welch, as we think about that—and we’ve touched on this as well—how does the annual flu vaccination contribute to reducing the transmission of influenza and perhaps other respiratory agents within communities in the population?

Adam C. Welch, PharmD, MBA, FAPhA: Individuals aged 65 and older account for 70% to 85% of all flu-related deaths. Flu and pneumonia combined are among the top 10 causes of death in this country. Individuals aged 65 and older also account for 50% to 70% of all flu-related hospitalizations. So the morbidity and mortality associated with flu, particularly in individuals aged 65 and older is significant. By vaccinating them and individuals around them, creating herd immunity in the small network they interact with routinely, that’s going to enhance the protection, particularly if somebody cannot receive the flu vaccine. Reducing that transmission via prevention through vaccines is important. But also, we have to understand the things COVID-19 has taught us. There are individuals who are much more aware of respiratory hygiene, coughing, and sneezing into a sleeve. Hand sanitizer is much more prevalent than it was a few years ago. These are prevention strategies, coupled with the influenza vaccine, can reduce the 85% of flu-related deaths overall that are coming from individuals aged 65 and older.

Randy McDonough, PharmD, MS, BCGP, BCPS, FAPhA: It’s little things, like shaking hands. It’s a new thing, where maybe we don’t do that. I think about some of the social changes we’ve seen because of COVID-19.

Adam C. Welch, PharmD, MBA, FAPhA: A study looked at how many times individuals touch their face. I asked some students this question. Do you think it’s 25 times a week or 25 times a day? It’s 25 times an hour. They’re always rubbing their face, touching their face. If you had touched a contaminated surface—you can’t see [influenza], you don’t know who was in the room an hour before you—and you touch your eyes, touch your nose, and touch your mouth, that’s a way to transmit the virus.

Randy McDonough, PharmD, MS, BCGP, BCPS, FAPhA: I’m much more intentional doing 20-second hand washes.

Rodney E. Rohde, PhD, MS, SM (ASCP) CM, SVCM, MBCM, FACSc: Coming back to talking about influenza, this all unfolds in the world of risk reduction in public health and what we’ve learned about air changes in a building or an airplane and how important that is. Plus, handshaking, hygiene, when you cough into your sleeve or into something else, masking—whatever the situation is. Even if you don’t understand that, you should start educating yourself about it. You can reduce your risk of aerosolized or airborne types of transmission.

Chad Worz, PharmD, BCGP, FASCP: It’s niche, but in nursing homes, 1 thing that popped when all this went down was that we started to move away from sliding-scale insulin and getting finger sticks routinely. The effort was to reduce the contact between the nurse or staff and the patient in their room, to try to reduce transmission of infection. A lot of good came from that. We evolved to better ways of treating patients and reduced contact time. In the end, as you suggested with handshakes, it makes a difference. It’s been an interesting evolution.

Transcript edited for clarity.

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