Pharmacists play a critical role in protecting patients from seasonal influenza and pneumonia illnesses and sequelae.
Pharmacists’ position as accessible health care professionals affords them the ideal opportunity to remind patients to stay up-to-date on immunizations.
Every season, pharmacies embark on a major outreach to immunize the public against influenza and pneumonia. It is imperative that pharmacists understand the recommendations put forth by the CDC for each season’s vaccines. Pharmacists also need to know which vaccines are available; be able to combat misconceptions about vaccines; and, by making strong recommendations, help increase the number of patients receiving these immunizations.
The inuenza virus infects the lungs, nose, and throat, causing a highly contagious respiratory illness. Flu symptoms can be mild to severe, leading to hospitalization and possibly death.
Anyone can get the flu, which can cause serious problems at any age. However, some people are at increased risk of complications, such as the elderly; pregnant women; those with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease; and young children.
The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated every year. About 2 weeks after a patient receives the flu vaccine, antibodies that protect against the influenza virus are formed. This can reduce doctors' visits, flu illnesses, and absences from school and work. In addition, the vaccine can lessen the severity of the flu and prevent flu-related deaths and hospitalizations.
The CDC recommends that everyone older than 6 months receive the inuenza vaccine every year. The agency also advises immunizing from the end of August through October to achieve the greatest benet, based on the months that most cases of inuenza develop.
Vaccination types for the 2019-2020 flu season are:
Many patients mistakenly believe that the flu vaccine causes flu illness. Flu shots are made with either a “killed” virus that is not infectious or a single gene from the virus to produce an immune response without causing infection.2
Some people report not feeling well after receiving the flu vaccine. This occurs simply because the body is adjusting to introduction of the antigen and triggers an immune response, which may cause headache, low-grade fever, and muscle aches. Symptoms usually last 1 to 2 days.2
Unfortunately, the flu vaccine is not 100% effective. People who are vaccinated may get ill for several reasons: They may have another respiratory virus that causes flulike symptoms, were exposed to the flu shortly before or after receiving the vaccine—it takes 2 weeks for the body to make antibodies—or be infected with a strain that is not covered by that season’s vaccine.
Finally, there is variability between people on the flu vaccine’s effectiveness.2
More than 250,000 people in the United States are hospitalized every year with pneumonia, a bacterial infection of the lungs, and about 20% of those patients die.3
Anyone can get pneumonia, which can cause serious problems at any age. Some people are at increased risk of pneumonia complications, such as the elderly; people who smoke; those with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease; and young children.
In the United States, 2 pneumococcal vaccines are licensed for use by the FDA: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13 [Prevnar 13]) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23 [Pneumovax 23]).
The CDC recommends the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for adults 65 years and older, all children younger than 2 years, and people aged 2 to 64 years with chronic health conditions.
In children, these conditions include chronic heart, kidney, liver, or lung disease; diabetes; HIV infection; immune-compromising diseases; nephrotic syndrome; and sickle cell disease.
Adults share those contraindications plus an absent or damaged spleen, AIDS or HIV infection, alcoholism, cancer, and cigarette smoking.3
The CDC recommends the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine for everyone 65 years and older, adults aged 19 to 64 who smoke cigarettes, and people aged 2 to 64 years with the high-risk conditions listed above.3
STRENGTHENING THE CASE
Most adult patients think that vaccines are important, but they sometimes need a strong reminder to get vaccinated. To help health care professionals present the case for vaccination, the CDC has come up with the mnemonic SHARE:
Up-to-date immunizations are the best protection against the flu and pneumonia. In addition, avoid contact with sick people; do not touch the eyes, mouth, and nose; clean and disinfect possibly contaminated surfaces; and wash hands often with soap and water.
To help keep an infected person’s illness from spreading, clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces, cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, limit contact with others, stay home at least 24 hours after fever has gone, and wash hands often with soap and water.