October 01, 2011
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CDC: Give patients flu vaccine now

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For the 2011-2012 influenza season, the vaccines are well matched to circulating strains, vaccine supplies are plentiful and there are now more ways than ever to get the vaccine. Therefore, the head of the CDC is calling for everyone aged older than 6 months to receive the influenza vaccine.

Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the CDC, spoke on the importance of influenza vaccination at a press conference Wednesday convened by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). To demonstrate his point, Frieden received his influenza vaccination in front of the reporters gathered at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“The best way to protect yourself and your family is to get a flu vaccine,” Frieden said. “Even healthy children and adults can contract this illness, so it is key to protect yourself and your community by getting a flu shot this year and every year.”

Frieden was joined at the press conference by William Schaffner, MD, NFID president, and Richard Beigi, MD, of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

William Schaffner
William
Schaffner

Schaffner said Frieden’s act of getting vaccinated was in line with a campaign recently launched by the NFID, which is urging community leaders to publicly get vaccinated to demonstrate the safety of the vaccine.

Survey data recently completed by the NFID demonstrated that two-thirds of adults have plans to be vaccinated this season, and seven in 10 parents planned to get their children vaccinated, Schaffner said. However, many who did not plan to be vaccinated may be motivated to receive influenza vaccine by further education and encouragement.

“The knowledge they may infect others, seeing friends or family members suffer from the disease, and a recommendation from a health care provider all were noted [in the survey] as motivators to get people vaccinated,” Schaffner said. “So there needs to be a matching of this need to protect others around you, as well as recommendations from health care providers, which would offer us an opportunity to make further progress.”

Schaffner said it is important to counsel patients about the importance of vaccination and that there are options, including the traditional vaccine, the intranasal and the recently introduced intradermal vaccine, which is for those who want a shorter needle.

Beigi said tremendous progress has been made in the area of vaccinating at-risk populations such as pregnant women. In fact, rates increased from 15% before the pandemic strain of influenza in 2009 to 45% last year, but he added that more work is needed.

“Data from the CDC, as well as other data, show that the most important factor driving a woman’s choice to be vaccinated is a direct provider recommendation,” Beigi said. “The data suggest that a pregnant woman who is given information about the safety and efficacy of these vaccines is five times more likely to receive one, so discussing vaccination during obstetrical visits is important to protect the mother and the newborn.”

He said there are data to indicate that vaccination during pregnancy has been shown to be protective of the newborn in the first 6 months. This is also important because the influenza vaccine is only recommended for children aged 6 months and older.

Schaffner said adults aged older than 65 years are another at-risk population. In this population, it is important to stress vaccination against pneumococcal disease, which can be a serious complication of influenza. About 73 million US adults who need this vaccine have not yet received it, so offering this vaccine is key to reducing morbidity and mortality in older people.

Representatives from the AAP, American Medical Association, American Pharmacists Association, CMS, Indian Health Service, National Hispanic Medical Association and the National Medical Association also appeared at the press conference, and all of them backed the NFID’s call for widespread influenza vaccination. – by Colleen Zacharyczuk

Disclosure: Drs. Beigi, Schaffner and Frieden report no relevant financial disclosures.

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