What Should Patient Groups tell their Members about the Flu Vaccine?

By Aimee Lee Russell, Associate, Programs

On Friday, December 6, the National Health Council co-hosted a webinar with the National Minority Quality Forum’s Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality and Equity. William Schaffner, MD, Professor of Preventive Medicine, Department of Health Policy and Division of Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and Medical Director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, shared information on the importance of everyone, especially people with chronic diseases and their family members, getting an influenza, or flu, shot.

Dr. Schaffner stressed that the flu and chronic conditions are a dangerous combination – the flu is not just a “bad cold.” During the 2018-2019 flu season, the flu contributed to 36,000 deaths in the US with than 531,000 individuals hospitalized. He described how people who have chronic diseases should be especially careful of their health during the flu season because the flu may exacerbate their chronic-disease symptoms and lead to larger health issues. In fact, 93 percent of adults who were hospitalized for the flu had an underlying medical condition.

The prevalence flu vaccine in the US is around 40 to 60 percent. So, while it’s not perfect, it’s always better to have protection against the flu. Even if individuals do get the flu despite vaccination, the flu shot often decreases the duration and severity of illness, reduces hospitalizations, can reduce further infection of others, and reduce time off work or school. Importantly, the flu vaccine is safe and “you cannot get flu from the flu vaccine!”

Dr. Shaffner presented a number of specific examples about the benefits of flu vaccination in individuals with chronic conditions, such as individuals with chronic heart disease.

To help increase flu vaccination rates, patient groups can educate and communicate with their constituents about the importance of getting the flu vaccine, and counter the myths and misinformation that may be in the community. Dr. Schaffner also suggests that patient groups include getting the flu vaccine into routine chronic disease management.

Please find more resources including infographics and social media posts from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases website here.

Watch the webinar below.