The fall season brings a lot of pleasant things for many people. Beautiful foliage, cooler temperatures, and pumpkin spice lattes are pick-me-ups for most of us. However, fall also brings the beginning of flu season. And this year, we have the added difficulty of trying to navigate a resurging pandemic on top of it. So what’s the best way to help your patients avoid the flu and stay healthy this fall?
So while you’re preparing your pharmacy’s flu shot program for this season, here are a few things to consider about this year’s shots:
What We Know About 2021 Flu Shots So Far
The flu changes every year, and so does the flu vaccine developed to fight it. This flu season, every available vaccine is a quadrivalent vaccine — it protects against four different flu viruses. (For more information about which flu virus strains are covered, visit the CDC’s website.) Three main types of flu vaccines will be available for your patients: inactivated influenza vaccines (IIV4), recombinant influenza vaccines (RIV4), and live attenuated influenza vaccines (LAIV4). The first two are injectable, while the LAIV4 is given via nasal spray. While some vaccines are developed using egg-based technologies, there are vaccines available this year that are completely egg-free.
Who Should Get a Flu Shot? Who Shouldn’t?
According to the CDC, everyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot, with few exceptions. People who are especially susceptible to complications from the flu should get vaccinated; these people include adults over the age of 65 and those with chronic health conditions (like asthma, heart disease, and diabetes). Different flu shots are available for different age groups, so vaccine providers should be sure patients are receiving the correct vaccine for their demographic. Also, pregnant people can and should get a flu shot.
While there aren’t many people who shouldn’t be vaccinated for the flu, they do exist. Children younger than six months old should not get a flu shot. Anyone with severe, life-threatening allergies to vaccine ingredients (including gelatin or antibiotics) shouldn’t get a flu shot. And people who have previously had an allergic reaction to a flu shot should not get that particular vaccine again, and should consult their doctor before getting a different flu shot.
In the past, it was thought that people with egg allergies should refrain from getting flu shots since many flu vaccines are manufactured using egg-based technology. But researchers have found that it is exceedingly rare for flu shots to cause reactions in patients with egg allergies. Still, if a patient has an egg allergy, they are advised to consult their physician before getting a flu shot.
Also, if a patient has ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (also called simply GBS), they should consult a physician before getting a flu vaccine. Some people with GBS history should not get vaccinated.
When Should Patients Get Their Flu Shots?
Flu season typically begins around October, so it would make sense to recommend that patients get their flu shots before that. However, vaccine efficacy also must be taken into account. Studies have shown that maximum vaccine efficacy occurs directly after vaccination, with effectiveness dropping 8% to 9% each month after the vaccination. For maximum protection, the CDC recommends that patients receive their flu shots by the end of October.
Can Flu Shots Be Given With COVID-19 Boosters?
Previously, the CDC recommended spacing the COVID-19 vaccine with other vaccines because the vaccine was still new. However, after more research, they have concluded that the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine can be safely administered at the same time. As patients make appointments with you for their COVID-19 boosters this fall, be sure to ask if they would also like to get their flu shot.
When it comes to your patients’ health, the best time to solve a problem is before it becomes a problem. Flu shots are the most effective way to guard your patients against the flu this fall.
Do you have your 2021 flu shot program figured out? Did you know you can bill the medical benefit for vaccine administration on top of billing for the vaccine itself? FDS Amplicare MedBill makes it easy to bill for clinical care like vaccine administration and get paid for the services you provide. Reach out to our team today to get set up for this fall!