This year’s flu has been less virulent in some areas, much moreso in others. Whether you have had a flu shot or not, influenza can result in serious complications including hospitalizations and even death.1 The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends annual influenza vaccinations, preferably by the end of October, for all persons aged 6 months or older who do not have contraindications.1
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu cases and flu-related hospitalizations have risen sharply since October 2019, with at least 6.4 million reported cases and 55,000 hospitalizations. In addition, the CDC reports that the flu has taken the lives of more than 2900 Americans (27 pediatric) over the past few months. Although the flu is unpredictable, the trajectory of this seasons flu activity is on pace to be the deadliest in nearly a half-century.2
No matter what kind of healthcare facility you work at, some flu vaccine shipments will be delayed, according to a letter sent by flu vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur. The delay may push out the typical starting time for vaccinations, but it will arrive in plenty of time to keep patients protected from this year’s virulent strains. Vaccines are set to arrive no later the end of November, which provides time to offer protection from the typical peak flu months - December through February.3
The delay will affect three vaccines produced by Sanofi Pasteur, accounting for roughly 40% of the entire U.S. flu vaccine supply- Fluzone Quadrivalent, Fluzone High-Dose, and Flublok Quadrivalent. The delay was caused by the World Health Organization (WHO) postponing its selection of the influenza A (H3N2) strain. Manufacturers usually do not begin formulating the vaccines until WHO makes its final selections of strains and the final specs are signed off by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).3 No other flu vaccine manufacturers have reported delays to date or any shortages, with the exception of FluMist potentially having limited distribution due to manufacturing constraints, reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).4
Choosing the right vaccine based on age, allergies, or other factors is important for clinicians to understand. ACIP does not recommend one influenza vaccine product over another when there are multiple licensed and age-appropriate immunizations available.1 With so many vaccine choices available today, it can often be hard to identify which is best for a given patient. Veradigm ePrescribe has all available options readily searchable in even displays additional dosing, administration, warning and precaution details with the click of a button.
This type of easily accessible support can help give providers the confidence to prescribe appropriately to manage more complex patients for example those with multiple food or medication allergies, are elderly, or have physical impairments. Included with Veradigm ePrescribe at no additional cost, Veradigm RxTruePrice™ delivers prescription price transparency data directly into the prescribing workflow, helping providers to support patients to find the most cost-effective and convenient vaccination option.
In addition to flu vaccine being the best form of protection against seasonal flu, please remind patients that frequent handwashing with soap and water and avoiding close contact with sick individuals are the next best forms of protection.1 It is also important to encourage patients to wear masks when they are around others who may potentially be sick and have weakened immune systems.
As a practicing pharmacist, I play a vital role in patient education and administration of influenza vaccines. Pharmacists are being trained in school, before even stepping foot into practice, on the proper techniques for storage, patient administration, documentation, and disposal.1 I highly encourage and recommend clinicians to visit the CDC vaccination website to address any additional questions and concerns that may arise when treating patients. In addition, frequently check your distributor’s website and communications for updates on vaccine supplies and availability dates.