Seize the Moment Now to Discuss Vaccines

Vaccines are extremely topical, with questions routinely being asked, particularly during the winter season.

There is something about an election year that is like influenza season. Stick with me here.

My family’s independent pharmacy has been in Joliet, IL since 1969 and in October I was down in the beautiful city of San Antonio, Texas for a meeting with a group of pharmacists. During some get to know you chit-chat beforehand, another pharmacist asked me “So who y’all votin’ for up there?”

After regaining my footing, I began to think about how this question would never be asked if it wasn’t an election year, yet during an election year these kinds of questions are asked all the time. The same is true during flu season.

“Should I get the flu shot this year?” “Do you think the flu shot works?” “Can I get the flu from the flu shot?” Vaccines are extremely topical, with questions routinely being asked, particularly during the winter season. These kinds of questions are not being asked over the summer. I don’t know why this is and I don’t really care. What I do know is this is our opportunity to capitalize on it.

During a presidential election year, if someone asks who you are voting for, they are automatically talking about the presidential election. Yet you could answer who your choice was for Senator, Congress, or county auditor.

When the flu questions come, ask your patients about other vaccines. In our pharmacy this year, we are talking to our seniors about pneumonia vaccination. Every day 10,000 Americans turn 65 and even healthy and active adults as young as 50 are at increased risk for pneumococcal pneumonia. Hospitalizations during flu season per 100,000 individuals over 65 years old is 77.7,1 which is similar to estimated hospitalizations per year for pneumococcal pneumonia — 73.3 per 100,000 individuals.2 Yet pneumonia does not receive as much attention as other adult vaccine preventable diseases.

There are 2 pneumonia vaccines on the market right now and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends all adults over 65 years old get both, PCV13 (Prevnar-13) and PPSV23 (Pneumovax). The schedule for when the 2 vaccines should be administered is available on the CDC website.3 Although they must be given a year apart, either on can be given with the influenza vaccine. So, the questions have already started this flu season, for your consideration, I propose some alternative answers:

“Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?” The answer to this question is: "no and you can’t get pneumonia from either of the pneumonia vaccines. I can give you the flu and pneumonia vaccines today."

“Do you think the flu shot works?” The answer to this question is: "It is the best protection we have against this terrible disease, and your best protection against pneumonia is getting both pneumonia shots. Have you received a pneumonia shot yet?"

“Do you think I should get the flu shot this year?” The answer to this question is "Yes! And while you are here, we can give “Y’all” your pneumonia shot as well."

Now is the time, take advantage of this opportunity to protect our adult patients, because just try to have a conversation about pneumococcal pneumonia in August.

References

1. CDC FluView: Laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalizations. http://gis.cdc.gov/GRASP/Fluview/FluHospRates.html. Accessed June 17, 2015.

2. Weinberger DM, Simonsen L, Jordan R, et al

. Impact of the 2009 influenza pandemic on pneumococcal pneumonia hospitalizations in the US. J Infect Dis. 2012;205: 458—465.

3. Kobayashi M, Bennett NM, Gierke R, et al. Intervals Between PCV13 and PPSV23 Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). 2015; 64(34);944-947.