Clinical Practice: Vaccinations: Are You Ready to Lead by Example?

Dr. Laura Riley recieving her flu shot. Courtesy of the
national Foundation for Infectious Diseases

Flu season is upon us.  While vaccination rates in certain populations have increased over the last couple of years, there is still a lot of work to do among our most vulnerable populations, including pregnant women.

Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), joined with leading medical/public health experts on October 17 at this year’s National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) news conference and encouraged all individuals six months of age and older to get vaccinated against influenza annually.

Seasonal influenza is a potentially serious illness that results in millions of cases of illness, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths each year. Last season, influenza resulted in the highest hospitalization rate among seniors that has ever been documented and 145 documented pediatric deaths. The circulating H3 influenza virus caused the majority of illness in 2014-15 and was not included in the vaccine last year, however, it is included in this year’s vaccine.

Dr. Frieden recognized the progress made toward increasing influenza vaccination rates among pregnant women and acknowledged the CDC’s partnership with ACOG to achieve these goals. Dr. Frieden announced that over 171 million doses of influenza vaccine would be available for the 2015-16 flu season, enough for everyone who wants a flu shot to get one. The flu vaccine is already available in many places, and it is not too early to get vaccinated.

So how can you help get your pregnant patients and other vulnerable patients safely vaccinated? By leading by example, of course.

Through its initiative, Leading by Example, NIFD is calling on leaders in health care, business, education, and politics to "lead by example" by making a commitment to influenza prevention. Organizations and individual health care leaders can join the growing list of supporters and participate in one or more activities including providing a photo of yourself receiving your flu vaccine or another visual that demonstrates your commitment to flu vaccination. Use your website, Facebook page, or Twitter channel to participate. The Leading by Example website provides many ideas and examples you can use.

Dr. Laura Riley, chair of ACOG’s Immunization Expert Work Group, was ACOG’s representative at the NFID press conference and stressed the need for all pregnant women to be vaccinated against influenza. By receiving a flu shot, pregnant women protect not only themselves, but also their babies until they are able to be vaccinated at six months of age. Dr. Riley also emphasized the safety of receiving an influenza vaccine in any trimester. For more information on influenza and pregnancy see ACOG’s Immunization for Women website where you can access Influenza Immunization during Pregnancy and Tdap Immunization toolkits, sign up for email updates, and look at immunization news and information.

In addition to receiving your annual flu shot, many people also need the pneumococcal vaccine. Pneumonia can be particularly serious in older adults, therefore everyone 65 and older should receive the pneumonia vaccine. Adults age 19-64 with certain high risk factors such as smoking, HIV infection, and long term immunosuppression therapy should also receive the pneumonia vaccine. There are currently two vaccines to protect against pneumococcal disease, PCV13 and PPSV23 and recommendations for the administration of these vaccines has recently been updated. The public was encouraged to ask their providers which vaccine they need. See here for CDC’s recommendations for pneumococcal vaccination.

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases is an organization committed to educating about prevention, causes, and treatment of infectious diseases.

See more on NFID’s news conference here and find out how you can commit to influenza prevention by “leading by example”.


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