Editor’s note: Author, Jennifer Mensik, does not endorse, recommend or favor any program, product or service advertised or referenced on this website, or that appear on any linkages to or from this website.
Last season, I wrote about plenty of good reasons to get a flu vaccine. Based on Facebook postings and continued conspiracy theory beliefs, it seems like a good candidate for discussion again this year.
If you work in healthcare, you should have gotten your flu vaccine by now. The only exceptions are those who are immune compromised or truly allergic to the ingredients, such as eggs.
If you haven’t gotten your flu shot by now, what are you waiting for? You can walk into your occupational health office and get the shot. You can go to your grocery store in many states and get it from the pharmacist in the pharmacy. You can get it in your provider’s office. You have to go to great lengths to ignore getting it and, at this point, you have no excuses.
Are you too busy? I can appreciate that. But what you spend time on is a reflection of your values. You can find 15 minutes to get your flu vaccine.
This year, our family made getting vaccinated a family event at the grocery store pharmacy. My 6-year-old son couldn’t get it since state law won’t allow a pharmacist in Oregon to administer it to those age 7 and younger. (Hello, I hear the need for a state law change.)
But two adults and three kids left immunized on a Saturday afternoon. It was a family outing because they each understand how important it is to get vaccinated. Let me note, my 6-year-old was crying because he was the only one who didn’t get vaccinated, and he wanted his. I did carve out time for him to get his vaccine the following week at the pediatrician’s office.
It is your ethical responsibility to get immunized as healthcare workers.
Flu season is threat to human life
News outlets reported during winter 2017-2018 that one out of 10 deaths were attributed to the flu. The CDC said that from Oct. 1, 2017, through April 28, 2018, 30,453 laboratory-confirmed, influenza-related hospitalizations were reported through the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network.
People 65 and older accounted for approximately 58% of reported influenza-associated hospitalizations, according to the CDC. Overall hospitalization rates during 2017-2018 were the highest ever recorded in this surveillance system, breaking the previously recorded high during 2014-2015.
As of October 27, 2018, a total of 185 pediatric deaths had been reported to CDC during the 2017-2018 season. This number exceeds the previously highest number of flu-associated deaths in children reported during a regular flu season (171 during the 2012-2013 season).
On average 40% of children who die from the flu have no pre-existing conditions. About 80% of these deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination this season.
Although adult flu deaths are not nationally notifiable, the CDC, based on lab-confirmed rates of the flu, notes the virus has resulted in between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations annually since 2010.
Debate surrounds flu vaccine
We all need to participate in herd immunity for those individuals who cannot become vaccinated because of a life-threatening illness. Beyond influenza deaths, the World Health Organization states immunization averts an estimated 2.5 million pediatric deaths a year.
Let’s rehash the important information about the flu vaccine to debunk any myths.
- First, it is not made with the real virus. You can’t get the flu from it. If you get sick, you had already been exposed to the flu or a cold virus at about the same time. This was a coincidence, not the vaccine getting you sick.
- There is another group of naysayers who say the flu vaccination is not always effective each year. True, the flu vaccine doesn’t work well with the H3N2 virus, but each flu season is more than just one strain. That is why some people who get vaccinated still get sick. You just don’t know which strain you will be exposed to any year — there isn’t just one strain circulating. But each year, the developed flu vaccine does protect against three or four different flu viruses.
For the last flu season, the CDC states the overall vaccine effectiveness of the 2017-2018 flu vaccine against both influenza A and B viruses was estimated to be 40%. This means the flu vaccine reduced a person’s overall risk of having to seek medical care at a physcian’s office for flu illness by 40%.
Protection by virus type and sub-type was:
- 25% against A(H3N2)
- 65% against A(H1N1)
- 49% against influenza B viruses
Take in all the evidence and recognize the flu shot is beneficial to you and your patients. I am asking you not to play Russian roulette with your life and the lives of others. Getting the vaccine is more likely to help you and your patients stay healthy.
Take these courses related to “influenza and vaccination:”
The H1N1 Flu Pandemic: A National Emergency
(1 contact hr)
H1N1, originally termed swine flu, was declared an official global pandemic on June 11, 2009, when the World Health Organization raised the pandemic influenza alert level from Phase 5 to Phase 6 in recognition of the rapid global spread of a novel strain of H1N1 influenza. The WHO’s Phase 6 is characterized by verified human-to-human transmission of a new animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus causing community-level outbreaks in at least three countries in two different WHO regions. This phase indicated that a global pandemic was underway. In the face of an unprecedented level of H1N1 flu activity across the nation, and with an unexpected delay in availability of the vaccine developed to prevent it, President Obama declared swine flu a national emergency in October 2009. This program provides nurses with information about the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009 and discusses how we can prepare ourselves, our communities and our families for the next pandemic.
Adult Immunizations: Growing Needs, Growing Numbers
(1 contact hr)
Vaccine-preventable diseases strike millions of adults annually. Not long ago, what nurses needed to know about immunizations was simple: Infants and young children received most of the vaccines, and adult immunizations could be counted on one hand, with a few fingers left over. However, recently the number of recommended immunizations for people of all ages has increased to a level not seen before, and the number of vaccines keeps rising. This module addresses various vaccine formulations and indications and provides resources for healthcare professionals to stay up to date on vaccine recommendations.
Aging Immune Systems Make Older Adults More Vulnerable to Attack
(1 contact hr)
As the older adult population increases, healthcare providers across disciplines will be caring for more acutely ill elderly patients. Many will have infectious diseases, because elderly people are at an increased risk for acquiring infections and developing sepsis. This updated module will help healthcare professionals as a team understand how age-related changes in the immune system increase the risk for and severity of common infections in elderly patients.