For many patients, spring is when the flu season gives way to allergy season. But for health care providers, spring is the time to start preparing for the next flu season.
In fact, the most common setting for children and adults to receive their flu vaccine is in a doctor’s office. During the 2016-2017 flu season, 65.3 percent of children and 37.4 percent of adults got immunized in their doctor’s office, according to the . The second most common setting for children this past flu season was a clinic or health center—16.9 percent. The second most common setting for adults was a pharmacy—24.3 percent.
Anticipating Upcoming Flu Virus Strains
Given providers’ leading role as flu vaccine administrators and vanguards of the public’s health, proper preparation starts with knowing what influenza virus strains public health organizations anticipate will be widespread in the upcoming flu season. The next flu season is 2017-2018, which runs from October 2017 through May 2018 with the peak four-month period being December through March.
On March 2, (WHO) recommended that trivalent flu vaccines, or flu vaccines that target three types of viruses (two A strains and one B strain), for the 2017-2018 flu season in the northern hemisphere immunize patients from the following strains of influenza:
- A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
- B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus
The WHO also recommended that quadrivalent flu vaccines, or flu vaccines that target four types of viruses (two A strains and two B strains), for the 2017-2018 flu season in the northern hemisphere immunize patients from the same three strains and an additional strain: B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus.
Planning for Upcoming Flu Vaccine Types
The next step in the provider preparation process is to know what flu vaccines have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration based on the WHO’s recommendations.
On March 9, according to a number of industry reports, the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee approved the WHO recommendations. That gave drug manufacturers the greenlight to produce vaccines that immunize patients from the four virus strains identified by the WHO. The FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research must subsequently approve each vaccine for use by providers on patients before the flu season starts this fall.
Among the new flu vaccines expected to be available for the 2017-2018 flu season are:
- Afluria quadrivalent 0.5 ml prefilled syringe for patients age 18 years or older
- Afluria quadrivalent 5.0 ml multi-dose vial for patients age 18 years or older
- Flucelvax quadrivalent 5.0 ml multi-dose vial for patients age 4 or older
- Flublok quadrivalent 0.5 ml prefilled syringe for patients age 18 or older
- FluLaval quadrivalent 5.0 ml multi-dose vial for infants age 6 months or older
At least 15 flu vaccine formats that were available last season also are expected to be available for providers to administer to patients for the 2017-2018 flu season.
Lessons from 2016-2017 Flu Season
To adequately prepare for the next flu season, health care providers must look to the previous season for clues on how to improve. Here are some insights from the waning 2016-2017 flu season that providers can use to guide their actions for 2017-2018 flu season, now only seven months away.
- The vaccine for the 2016-2017 flu season was 48 percent effective, according to the . It was most effective—58 percent—for people age 50 to 64. It was least effective—19 percent—for people age 18 to 49.
- By early November 2016, 40.6 percent of adults age 18 or older had gotten their flu shots, according to the . It was less—37.3 percent—for children age six months through age 17.
- By early November 2016, 68.5 percent of health care personnel had gotten their flu shots, according to the . The vaccine rate was highest—83 percent—for physicians. It was the lowest—56.8 percent—for assistants and aides.
The immunization lessons for providers are: target their most vulnerable patient populations with the most appropriate flu vaccines available; administer the vaccines as soon as possible once the flu season starts; but not before taking their own medicine.
Related: Learn about Web2pro’s for providers.