Notes From the Immunization Program:
Prepare Your Practice to Fight Flu This Winter
Less than 30 percent of Philadelphians were vaccinated against flu in 2020. Presently, seasonal flu activity is elevated across the country. Ensure your practice is prepared to fight flu this winter.
Remind patients to get vaccinated. Send email, text, or phone call reminders to patients to get vaccinated against flu this season. CDC developed an appointment reminder email template which you can customize for your practice and patient population.
Make a strong vaccine recommendation. Offer flu vaccine and share specific reasons why the flu vaccine is right for the patient.
- Young children: “Young children, even those who are healthy, are at high risk of serious flu-related complications. Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated death by 65% (nearly two-thirds) among healthy children.”
- Pregnant people: “Pregnant people are at high risk of severe flu illness due to changes in the body caused by pregnancy. Complications of the flu can include preterm delivery, pneumonia, and material and fetal death. The flu vaccine is safe and recommended during pregnancy and can also protect your baby for several months after birth.”
- Adults 65 years and older: “People who are 65 years and older are at high risk of serious complications due to flu. Most flu-related hospitalizations and deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older.”
- Adults with certain medical conditions: “People with certain chronic conditions, like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, are at high risk of serious complications from flu. These include inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissue”
- Healthy adults: “Most healthy adults don’t die from the flu, but your rate of hospitalization can be cut nearly in half by getting the flu shot.”
Discuss practical matters with patients. There are costs to skipping vaccinations, such as the flu shot:
- If patients get the flu, they may miss several days of work which can result in lost wages.
- Patients who are hospitalized due to the flu can face expensive medical bills.
When discussing the costs of declining vaccination, remember to acknowledge patient concerns. This is particularly important for marginalized patients who have experienced discrimination in medical settings.
Black, Latinx, and indigenous patients experience higher rates of severe flu than white patients. Taking the time to engage with patients in decision making can improve health outcomes, particularly among vulnerable patients.
Continue the conversation. If patients remain hesitant to receive the flu vaccine after counseling, offer educational materials. CDC has informational handouts which you can use at no cost to your practice.
Additionally, this Flu Toolkit is available for health care providers in Philadelphia. It contains guidance on patient counseling, vaccine ordering updates, and flu vaccine promotional posters (available to order).