Pharmacists play a vital role in administering these and educating patients about COVID-19, influenza, pneumococcal, and Tdap vaccinations.
Although there are no immunizations that prevent the common cold, vaccines protect against symptoms shared with other respiratory illnesses.
Examples include the COVID-19, influenza, pneumococcal, and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccines. Pharmacists play a critical role in administering these vaccines and educating patients about them.
Types of Vaccines
It is important to encourage individuals aged 6 months and older to get their annual influenza vaccines, especially because flu cases got an early start this season. As of December 10, 2022, 48 jurisdictions were experiencing high or very high levels of flu activity.1 Flu symptoms can include congestion, a cough, or rhinorrhea.2 One notable update for this season is that the CDC now recommends 3 influenza vaccines for individuals aged 65 years and older, because evidence shows that they are more effective for this population.3 These are the Fluad Quadrivalent, Flublok Quadrivalent, or the Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccines.3
Congestion, a cough, and rhinorrhea are common symptoms associated with COVID-19. Bivalent boosters are available for individuals aged 6 months and older.4 The bivalent boosters provide protection against both the original virus and the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.4 Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech both offer bivalent boosters. However, only approximately 14% of individuals aged 5 years and older have received the bivalent booster in the United States.5 Pharmacists can play a key role to ensure that families are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. The results of 1 recent CDC study showed that bivalent boosters provided 73% additional protection against COVID-19 hospitalization in immunocompetent adults aged 65 years and older compared with individuals who received > 2 monovalent boosters.6
The Tdap vaccine is important to protect against pertussis, or whooping cough. Adolescents should receive a single dose of Tdap at aged 11 to 12 years.7 Adults should receive a Td or Tdap booster every 10 years.7 Women should receive 1 dose of Tdap during every pregnancy between weeks 27 and 36 to pass protective antibodies to their newborns.7 Vaccination during pregnancy is especially critical, because newborns do not receive their first DTaP vaccines until aged 2 months. Infants and children receive 5 doses of DTaP at aged a2, 4, 6, and 15 to 18 months, and aged 4 to 6 years.7
Pneumococcal pneumonia can cause a cough along with other respiratory complications, so it is critical for pharmacists to ensure that patients stay current with these vaccines. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13 or PCV15) should be administered to all children younger than aged 2 years.8 The 4-dose vaccine series should be given at aged 2, 4, 6, and 12 to 15 months.8 Children aged 2 years and older and adults younger than aged 65 years with certain medical conditions, such as acquired or congenital asplenia or cerebrospinal fluid leak, should also receive pneumococcal vaccines.8
All adults aged 65 years and older who have never received any pneumococcal conjugate vaccines or whose vaccine history is unknown should be administered PCV15 or PCV20.8 If PCV15 is administered, then PPSV23 should be given 1 year later.8 A minimum interval of 8 weeks between PCV15 and PPSV23 can be considered for cerebrospinal leak, certain immunocompromising conditions, such as chronic renal failure or leukemia, or cochlear implants.8 If PCV20 is administered, then a dose of PPSV23 should not be given.8
1. Weekly US influenza surveillance report. CDC. December 30, 2022. Accessed December 17, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm
2. Flu symptoms & complications. CDC. October 3, 2022. Accessed December 17, 2022.
3. Seasonal flu vaccines. CDC. August 25, 2022. Accessed December 17, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/flushot.htm
4. Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines including boosters. CDC. December 30, 2022. Accessed December 18, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/stay-up-to-date.html
5. COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States. CDC. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations_vacc-people-booster-percent-pop5
6. Surie D, DeCuir J, Zhu Y, et al. Early estimates of bivalent mRNA vaccines effectiveness in preventing COVID-19-associated hospitalization among immunocompetent adults aged > 65 years – IVY Network, 18 States, September 8-November 30, 2022. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2022;71(5152):1625-1630. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm715152e2
7. Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine recommendations. CDC. September 6, 2022. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/dtap-tdap-td/hcp/recommendations.html
8. Pneumococcal vaccine recommendations. CDC. January 24, 2022. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/pneumo/hcp/recommendations.html