With the 2018-2019 flu season approaching, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated to our member population. Because we know patients and their families listen to their providers, Harvard Pilgrim requests that you please promote the flu vaccine to your patients so that they understand how it can help them avoid illness and potential hospitalization.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends yearly vaccination for people 6 months of age and older, and estimates that influenza vaccination prevented approximately 5.1 million influenza illnesses, 2.5 million influenza-associated medical visits, and 71,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations during the 2015-2016 season, with an overall vaccine effectiveness of 48%. Additionally, a study in Pediatrics found the flu vaccine to be effective in preventing influenza-related deaths among children.
While some people who get vaccinated may still develop influenza, vaccination may make their illness milder. A 2017 study in Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) found that influenza vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized influenza patients.
Recent flu severity and the 2018-2019 vaccine
According to the CDC, the 2017-2018 flu season was a high-severity, H3N2-predominant season with record-breaking levels of influenza-like illness and hospitalization rates, and 177 flu-related deaths in children. All 2017-2018 flu vaccine has expired as of June 30, and a new vaccine, which will be available shortly, is currently being produced for the 2018-2019 season.
For useful influenza-related information designed for providers, please refer to the Information for Health Professionals section of the CDC’s website.