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National Influenza Vaccination Week - #FightFlu: Protecting Our Adult Communities from Influenza Through Vaccination

Dec 05, 2022 | Victoria Thompson

This week the public health community recognizes National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), an annual call to action, reminding us that everyone six months and older who do not have contraindications should receive an influenza (flu) vaccine. The importance of the flu vaccine cannot be understated. A recent analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in the past decade (2010-2020), the annual incidence of illness due to flu ranged from 9 million – 41 million, hospitalizations ranged from 140,000-710,000 and deaths ranged from 12,000 to 52,000 each year.1 Early data from the current flu season (2022-2023) show increasing flu activity across the country and lagging rates of vaccination, further underscoring the importance of NIVW this year.

Nationally, influenza vaccination coverage among adults was trending upward but saw a decline in the 2021-2022 flu season with a coverage rate of 49.4% among individuals 18 years and older compared to 50.2% the previous season. Additionally, racial and ethnic disparities in flu vaccination coverage continue to exist. 2,4 Historically, adults from racial and ethnic minority groups have had lower flu vaccination rates and higher rates of severe flu illness and flu-related outcomes (i.e., hospitalization and death) compared to non-Hispanic White adults.3

The same trend is true for COVID-19.3 Therefore, this NIVW we must not only continue to acknowledge these long-standing disparities but acknowledge the simultaneous threat of additional respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19. Racial and ethnic minority adults continue to disproportionately experience poor outcomes from influenza and COVID-19. We must work together to leverage and enhance strategies which further protect our adult communities from influenza and COVID-19 through vaccination.

Local health departments (LHDs) play a significant role in identifying and reducing flu and COVID-19 vaccination inequities by addressing the underlying causes of vaccine access, acceptance, and confidence.4 The CDC continues to support the work of LHDs to improve flu and COVID-19 vaccination coverage among racial and ethnic minority adults through the Partnering for Vaccine Equity (PAVE) project. NACCHO serves as a proud partner in this effort by providing training and technical assistance to selected local jurisdictions funded to identify and address inequities in adult vaccination with a focus on influenza and COVID-19 vaccine coverage.

Using lessons learned and best practices from LHDs across the nation, we have the opportunity to improve flu and COVID-19 vaccine coverage among racial and ethnic minority adults. For example, Dent County Health Center in Missouri, has seen an increased interest for the flu vaccine earlier in the season and has leveraged such interest to co-administer flu and COVID-19 vaccinations when appropriate. They also utilize VaxCare to manage inventory and billing, which has reduced the financial burden of the health department. While VaxCare has been routinely used, this current flu season Dent County began to use their Electronic Health Record (EHR) system as well. This presented a challenge as it was learned that their EHR system and VaxCare do not currently interface but can do so. While this unintended challenge has resulted in a significant administrative burden, the health department now plans to upgrade their systems for the two platforms to communicate with one another which will be implemented by the next flu season.

Paris-Lamar County Health District (PLCHD)

Located in Texas, PLCHD is striving to increase not only the number of individuals vaccinated but also the availability of influenza and COVID-19 vaccines. They have collaborated with several organizations who have the same goal of improving accessibility to vaccines and provide information about additional health care programs and services available. Examples of their partnerships include Paris Regional Medical Center, Special Health Resources, and Signature Care Emergency Room.

PLCHD has held 17 off-site clinics in various locations providing flu and COVID-19 vaccines while ensuring services provided accommodate language needs. They have seen success with expanding access to vaccination services through partnerships and community outreach activities in areas of most need which includes a focus on their rural, pediatric, elderly, low income, and/or homeless populations.

Two Rivers Public Health Department (TRPHD)

Furthermore, in Nebraska, TRPHD has also seen higher interest for flu vaccinations compared to previous seasons. With the increased interest, TRPHD is leveraging community spaces for flu clinics to ensure the vaccine is available and accessible. TRPHD has been able to leverage the partnerships established during COVID-19 as well as partnerships routinely maintained prior to the pandemic, to increase access to the flu vaccine. Like Dent County Health Center and PLCHD, TRPHD offers co-administration of the flu and COVID-19 vaccine.

The strategies shared highlight a few of many successful strategies health departments across the nation are implementing to reduce vaccine inequities and improve vaccine coverage for influenza and COVID-19. The strategies shared inform ways in which LHDs can continue and increase flu and COVID-19 vaccination coverage among racial and ethnic minority groups.

Join us in observing NIVW and reminding individuals that it is not too late to vaccinate! Use the strategies and resources below to increase flu vaccine uptake in your community.

Strategies to enhance flu vaccination coverage.5,6,7,8,9

  • Offer flu vaccination in convenient places, including the workplace and schools
  • Provide incentives for vaccination (gift cards, paid time off for vaccination/recovery, etc.)
  • Conduct outreach, including reminder/recall strategies
  • Utilize vaccine ambassadors and trusted community leaders to promote the value of vaccination
  • Co-administer flu vaccines with other vaccines the patient may be due for, including COVID-19
  • Provide vaccination for all age groups whenever available
  • Improve flu data quality to identify gaps and better target outreach

Resources

Sources

  1. Estimated Influenza Disease Burden, by Season, United States, 2010-11 through 2019-20 Influenza Seasons | CDC
  2. Flu Vaccination Coverage, United States, 2021–22 Influenza Season | FluVaxView | Seasonal Influenza (Flu) | CDC
  3. Flu Vaccination Coverage, United States, 2021–22 Influenza Season | FluVaxView | Seasonal Influenza (Flu) | CDC
  4. CDC Program Engages Partners to Promote Vaccine Equity Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups | CDC
  5. Promoting Vaccination in the Workplace | CDC
  6. Vaccination – The Community Guide | Community Preventative Services Task Force
  7. Coadministration of COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines | CDC
  8. School-Located Influenza Vaccination Toolkit | NACCHO
  9. Collaboration to Address Influenza Vaccination Among Older Adults | NACCHO


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About Victoria Thompson

Victoria Thompson is a Senior Program Analyst on the Immunization Team at NACCHO.

More posts by Victoria Thompson

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