Magazine article Drug Topics

It's Time to Get Ready; the Flu Season Is Coming

Magazine article Drug Topics

It's Time to Get Ready; the Flu Season Is Coming

Article excerpt

COMMUNITY PRACTICE

Never mind the summer heat. It's time to think about the flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in Atlanta, it's never too early to begin planning for flu vaccines, which typically are given in October of each year. With last year's vaccine shortage still fresh in the minds of many, early planning may be the best way to ensure that your patients get the preventive care they need.

CDC has advised provider organizations, public health agencies, and those involved in ordering flu vaccine that, while it does not expect a repeat of last year's shortage, there will be a delay in getting the full distribution of vaccine out on time. Because influenza vaccine is newly produced for each year's flu season, different potential factors may arise each year to cause a delay

For this year's supply, CDC expects to have 64% of doses available by the end of October, with the rest of the 83.7 million doses coming in November and December. Recommendations are that high-- risk populations, including patients age 65 and older, those living in longterm care settings, healthcare workers, women who will be in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy during the flu season, and those with chronic medical conditions, be vaccinated as early in the season as possible.

According to a recent study conducted at the University of Michigan, influenza vaccination was 33% effective in preventing influenza-like illnesses as well as clinically diagnosed pneumonia in a significant number of elderly nursing home residents. Influenza is estimated to kill about 20,000 Americans annually, many of them in these high-risk categories.

Those not vaccinated in October can still benefit from receiving the vaccine, even as late as February Guidelines issued recently by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), state that influenza has not reached its peak in most recent seasons until late December through early March. Adults develop peak antibody protection against the flu two weeks after vaccination. Because that protection can decline within a few months in elderly people, the guidelines caution against vaccinating seniors earlier than October.

Dean Abbott, R.Ph., consultant to about 65 nursing homes in New Jersey, said it helps when nursing homes residents have standing orders from their physicians to receive a flu vaccination annually at the start of the flu season. …

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