It’s National Influenza Vaccination Week (December 7–13), and pharmacists should emphasize the importance of continuing influenza vaccination.
Despite CDC’s announcement last week that the current virus has mutated and the vaccine is less effective against the most common seasonal influenza strain, the agency, along with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and APhA, still highly recommend that Americans get vaccinated with the available vaccine. January through March is peak flu season.
According to CDC, the vaccination will still reduce the severity of symptoms if an individual does become infected.
“Vaccination has been found to provide some protection against drifted viruses in past seasons. Also, vaccination will offer protection against other flu viruses that may become more common later in the season,” said Joseph Bresee, MD, Chief of the Influenza Epidemiology and Prevention Branch at CDC.
According to Mitchel Rothholz, BSPharm, MBA, Chief Strategy Officer for APhA, not only are pharmacists accessible providers who can administer the influenza vaccine, but they can also serve as educators.
Pharmacists should know that high-risk patients, such as the young, elderly, and those with chronic diseases, are strongly encouraged to receive the influenza vaccine, even with a less-than-ideal vaccine match this year. These patients should talk to their health care provider and consider antiviral medication if they show symptoms of influenza. In addition, studies have found that antiviral medication is most effective when taken in the first 48 hours after symptoms appear.
“Pharmacists can assess patients, discuss with prescribers, prescribe medications if allowed by state law, or compound formulations to meet patient needs,” said Rothholz.
They can also monitor and counsel patients on these medications.
Lastly, CDC recommends patients stay at home if they are sick and use proper preventive measures like hand washing and covering their mouth when coughing.
Updated December 10, 2014