I had the pleasure of hosting NFIDs’
Influenza/Pneumococcal news conference this year.
Every year, NFID brings together leaders from public health and the private
sector to help prepare the nation for the upcoming flu season. As usual, I was
impressed by the commitment of so many of our medical and public health
colleagues. Here are some highlights:
- Thomas Frieden, MD, CDC Director, told us we
vaccinated 8 million more Americans against flu last
year compared with the year before — the most ever.
- About half of all US children were vaccinated last year —
up 7% from the previous year and up 22% from the year before that.
- Also very heartening is that about half of all pregnant women
received the vaccine last year. After years of influenza vaccination rates in
pregnant women stagnating around 15%, they’re getting the message.
According to Richard Beigi, MD, of the American College of Obstetricians
and Gynecologists, Ob/Gyns are stepping up; recommending and administering
vaccines. I say: Hurrah!
- Unfortunately, there was also sobering news about
pregnant women who became severely ill with the pandemic
virus having a 20% risk for death and increased risk for pre-term and
low-birth weight infants.
- The good news is that pregnant women treated with
antiviral drugs early after symptom onset had a
significantly better chance for survival.
- It is easier than ever for the public to get the influenza
vaccine. More doses are available than ever before, there are more places to
get vaccinated and now there are
four vaccine options, allowing many people a choice
for how they want to get immunized.
- Vaccination against pneumococcal disease, a frequent
complication of influenza, is often overlooked. About 73 million
Americans recommended to receive the pneumococcal
vaccine have not received it yet.
- According to Shari Ling, MD, of CMS, the organization
recognizes that pneumonia and flu are leading causes of death for people aged
65 and older; that the cost of care is high, particularly when hospitalization
is required; and that recuperation can be long and very costly. That’s why
CMS wants every Medicare and Medicaid beneficiary protected against both flu
and pneumococcal disease. Both vaccines are free of charge to all Medicare
beneficiaries (that includes both regular and high-dose influenza vaccines).
We heard interesting, and I hope motivational, comments from Marion
Burton, MD, of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Robert Wah, MD, of the
American Medical Association, Winston Price, MD, of the National Medical
Association, Susan Karol, MD, of the Indian Health Service, Elena Rios, MD, of
the National Hispanic Medical Association and Mitch Rothholz of the American
Pharmacists Association. You can see them all for yourself by watching a
video of the program.
I am gratified about the positive movement the citizens of this country
are making toward protecting themselves, their kids and their communities from
influenza every year. Recall that the CDC now recommends that everyone
older than 6 months of age in the United States be vaccinated against influenza
each and every year. Please join me in keeping the momentum going this flu
season — get vaccinated yourself and remind your medical colleagues and
everyone around you to do the same.