AAFP Calls on Members to Promote Influenza Vaccination This Season

September 29, 2017 01:39 pm News Staff
[Physician holding chalkboard saying Get Your Flu Shot]

On Sept. 20, the AAFP signed on to a CDC letter(223 KB PDF) to be distributed nationwide to health care professionals, including family physicians, asking for help in promoting the influenza vaccine for the 2017-2018 flu season.

An additional CDC letter(246 KB PDF) that the AAFP signed on to focuses specifically on flu vaccines for pregnant patients.

The main letter highlighted recommendations for this flu season, including the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) continued recommendation of annual influenza vaccination with an injectable influenza vaccine for all patients ages 6 months and older, including pregnant women.

Story highlights
  • On Sept. 20, the AAFP signed on to a CDC letter asking health care professionals, including family physicians, for help in promoting the influenza vaccine for the 2017-2018 flu season.
  • An additional CDC letter that the AAFP signed on to focuses specifically on flu vaccines for pregnant patients.
  • The CDC reminded physicians that its recommendation against using live attenuated influenza vaccine has been extended through the 2017-2018 flu season.

Additionally, the agency reminded physicians that its recommendation against using live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV; FluMist) has been extended through the 2017-2018 flu season.

The letter also said there is a sufficient supply of flu vaccine this season, as manufacturers project total production to be between 151 million and 166 million doses of injectable influenza vaccine.

The CDC said optimal timing of influenza vaccination is before onset of flu activity in the community -- by the end of October, if possible.

To maximize opportunities for vaccination, the agency said physicians should offer flu shots during routine visits. Also, vaccination efforts should continue throughout the flu season, as the season can vary in length and might not start until as late as February or March.

The CDC emphasized the importance of correct and safe vaccine administration to prevent errors, including common shoulder injuries such as deltoid bursitis. The agency recommended using its comprehensive vaccine administration resources(www.cdc.gov) as background for safe vaccination.

Additional Notes on Flu Vaccine

The CDC's letter arms family physicians with data they can use in conversations with patients about getting an influenza vaccine.

These include the facts that influenza vaccination

  • can prevent flu illness and hospitalization,
  • reduces deaths in children, and
  • may make illnesses milder.

During the 2015-2016 flu season, the CDC estimated that influenza vaccination prevented about 5.1 million flu illnesses, 2.5 million flu-related medical visits and 71,000 flu-related hospitalizations with an overall vaccine effectiveness of 48 percent.

The CDC referenced a study published in the April 2017 issue of Pediatrics(pediatrics.aappublications.org) that examined pediatric deaths from 2010 to 2014 and found flu vaccination reduced the risk of influenza-associated deaths among children and adolescents.

Finally, the agency pointed to a study published May 19, 2017, in Clinical Infectious Diseases(www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) that found influenza vaccination during the 2013-2014 flu season attenuated adverse outcomes among adults who were hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza. This included reducing deaths, ICU admissions, ICU length of stay and overall duration of hospitalization.

Advice for Pregnant Patients

The CDC letter that focused specifically on pregnant patients led by saying studies have shown that pregnant women who received a vaccine recommendation from a health care provider were more likely to be vaccinated than those who didn't.

"You are in the unique position to help decrease two vaccine-preventable diseases. Influenza and pertussis continue to put pregnant women and their babies at high risk of serious illness. Unfortunately, millions of women and their babies remain unprotected from these diseases," the letter said.

Even given the recent study that found a weak link between flu vaccine and miscarriage, the CDC's ACIP continues to recommend influenza vaccination for pregnant women.

"It is recommended that pregnant women get a flu vaccine during any trimester of their pregnancy because flu poses a danger to pregnant women, and a flu vaccine can prevent influenza in pregnant women," a related CDC factsheet(www.cdc.gov) said.

The letter said that additionally, the tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine should be given to pregnant women, preferably during the early part of gestational weeks 27 through 36, to maximize the passive antibody transfer to their infants.

The CDC offered a similar set of data to support influenza vaccination with pregnant patients, including noting that the flu vaccine has a good safety record and, when given during pregnancy, protects both the mother and her baby from influenza.

Influenza vaccination has reduced the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by up to half, the agency said.

For Tdap, the CDC said several prospective and observational studies have shown that the vaccine is safe and well tolerated in pregnant women. Also, multiple studies showed Tdap vaccination during the second or third trimester of pregnancy prevented pertussis in at least nine out of 10 infants younger than age 2 months.

Related AAFP News Coverage
Free Webinar Aims to Boost Flu Vaccinations in Older Adults
(9/12/2017)

Review Updated Flu Prevention Guidance for 2017-2018
Changes Include Newly Licensed Products, Expanded Age Indication
(9/12/2017)

AAFP Mapping Tool Aims to Enhance Immunization Advocacy
New Resource Presents Vaccine Legislation, Coverage Data by State
(8/23/2017)

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