| 04 August 2020
| By Tom Pasquariello, PharmD, BCPS, BCMAS, PMSP
It’s hard to believe but it is that time again, time to start preparing for the upcoming flu season. Flu vaccines will be extremely important this season with the anticipation of a second wave of COVID-19. The vaccine can help protect from severe acute respiratory illnesses that could potentially exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms. Those at higher risk of influenza complications such as pneumonia or lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI) include the elderly (aged 65 and over), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals, and pregnant women. Other high-risk groups include those with underlying chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and cardiovascular (CV) disease.1
Manufacturers are fully prepared to increase production as the demand for these vaccines is predicted to grow by 10% this year.2 In addition, retail chain drug stores are expecting a surge later this year in hopes to curb tens of thousands of serious cases. They are going to stock about 40% more than previous years so that anyone who needs one will be able to receive it without major delays.3 Typically, less than 50% of Americans choose to get vaccinated, but this year a Reuters/lposos poll found that about 60% of United States (U.S.) adults plan to receive a vaccine.3
Pharmacies are a great place to get a flu vaccine especially if your physician office may be closed or only doing telemedicine at this time. Pharmacists play a critical role in improving patient health outcomes through vaccinations. Changes that you may notice include pharmacists wearing disposable medical or surgical facemasks and the patients wearing a face covering (cloth or disposable). Some pharmacists may even wear a face shield in areas with high concentrations of COVID-19. Some pharmacies will require temperature checks, often with a device pointed toward the forehead or temple, before administering a vaccination.
There are a few key points to remember with the flu vaccination. The vaccine will not be fully effective for prevention, but it is about 40-60% effective for those who receive it. The strains chosen are not always a perfect match for the dominant strain that will evolve for the upcoming season, but it will help with the severity if you contract the virus.2 The flu vaccine is not active against the novel coronavirus nor does it offer protection from becoming infected. However, a separate COVID vaccine is currently being tested and is projected to be available in 2021. It is recommended to get the vaccine if you are not allergic because it is critical to help prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with flu and COVID-19 patients.3
Veradigm is committed to providing patients and providers with the necessary information to help make informed decisions on the benefit of receiving an annual flu vaccine. Hand washing and avoiding crowds still remain great defenses against the spread and transmission of the flu. We encourage you to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for more information on flu and COVID-19. They offer a flu finder that can help to find a location nearby that is excited to offer vaccination protection.