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In an age where the headlines scream for our attention and action in response to SARS, biochemical warfare, and Monkeypox, the average person must think that we, as a nation, are controlling common diseases such as influenza and pneumonia.


Influenza and related complications such as pneumonia are responsible for over 36,000 deaths per year in the United States (MMWR, 2003). If most of us were told that a new disease or a product was causing this many mortalities we would insist on finding a solution.


We do-Prevention through immunization! You can be the healthcare professional who urges seniors and others to take this relatively simple step that can help them avoid serious illness and/or hospitalization. Patients have great respect for their caregivers, and many will take your recommendation.


Only 64% of persons over age 65 receive a flu shot each year (MMWR, 2003). Even fewer people are immunized against pneumonia.


Why is this?


* Their personal doctor didn't suggest it.


* They fear the flu shot will cause illness.


* They have an aversion to needles.


* It is inconvenient.


Recently, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) removed the requirement for individual patient orders for immunizing home care patients against influenza and pneumonia. To the extent allowed by individual local and state laws, agencies may use a standing order that will cover all patients. If your agency has not yet adopted this policy, suggest they do.


Take the opportunity while in the home to urge family members and household contacts about their need to consider immunization. Arm yourself and your colleagues with information on where they can obtain a flu shot in their community.


Who should receive a flu shot?

The Advisory Council on Immunization Practices (ACIP) strongly recommends:


* any person 6 months or over at risk for complications from influenza be vaccinated annually;


* healthcare workers and other persons including household contacts of persons at high risk should be vaccinated to decrease the risk for transmitting influenza to high-risk individuals;


* influenza vaccine also can be administered to any person aged 6 months or over to reduce the chance of becoming infected with influenza. (MMWR, 2003).



For specific recommendations see the April 25, 2003, edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report available at


The optimal time to administer flu vaccine is October through November. However, flu vaccine should still be offered through December and throughout the influenza season. Adults develop peak antibody protection from influenza vaccine 2 weeks after vaccination.


The VNAA is an active member of the National Partners for Immunization (NPI) and the National Coalition for Adult Immunization (NCAI).




1. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). (April 25, 2003). Vol. 52. No. RR08a1. [Context Link]


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