This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established NIVW in 2005 to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond. The CDC’s estimates of influenza vaccination coverage from previous years have shown that vaccination activity drops quickly after the end of November. However, as long as influenza viruses are causing illness, vaccination can provide protection and efforts to encourage vaccination should continue. This year, NIVW runs from December 8-14.
Local health departments (LHDs) play an important role in influenza prevention through vaccination initiatives. Most flu activity usually peaks in the United States in January or later. According to the CDC’s week 47 data ending on November 23, 2013, there is currently low influenza activity nationally, but activity is increasing. There is elevated influenza activity in in the southern and southeast states, (HHS Regions 4 and 6). The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) was below the national baseline except for regions 4 and 6 which have reported ILI at or above region-specific baseline levels. 2009 H1N1 influenza A is the predominate strain of influenza being reported through U.S. Virological Surveillance. Since influenza activity is increasing, it is critical that LHDs host or collaborate with organizations to host influenza vaccination clinics now and throughout the New Year. The CDC has resources available for those LHDs interested in promoting NIVW or hosting influenza clinics. LHDs can also record their activities/events on CDC’s NIVW web page.
LHDs should be aware that due to the October 1, 2012 policy change in the 317 program, vaccines purchased with 317 funds cannot be used on privately insured patients. Most LHDs are aware of this change and have created mechanisms to address this policy. It is important to remember that LHDs hosting influenza vaccination clinics must have messaging around who the LHD can vaccinate within their community clinics. Depending on how the flu vaccine supply was purchased, LHDs may be able to vaccinate people who have public (Medicare, Medicaid, VFC, CHIP) and/or private insurance.
Another goal of NIVW is to communicate the importance of flu vaccination for people who are at high risk for developing flu-related complications. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that everyone over 6 months of age and older should get a yearly influenza vaccine since this is the first and most important step in protecting against influenza disease. Much of the U.S. population is at increased risk from serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a medical condition.
More than 30 percent of people 50 through 64 years of age have one or more chronic medical conditions that put them at increased risk of serious complications from flu and all children younger than 5 years and all adults 65 years and older are at increased risk of serious flu-related complications. On average, over 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year from flu and its related complications. Older adults, specifically those 65 years of age and older, typically account for about 60% of these flu-related hospitalizations each year and about 90% of flu-related deaths. For a complete list of those at risk, visit People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications on the CDC’s website.
Flu season is often difficult to predict. For example, the 2012-2013 flu season began early, was moderately severe, and lasted longer compared with previous seasons. Once vaccinated, people can enjoy this holiday season knowing that they have taken the single best step to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their community against the flu. In the words of Dr. Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Don’t hesitate. Vaccinate!”
NACCHO has several resources to support local health departments planning for influenza vaccinations:
- Influenza Toolkit, NACCHO Toolbox
- Immunization Toolkit, NACCHO Toolbox
- Flu Prevention and Care Guide, Advance Practice Centers
- Seasonal and Pandemic Influenza Vaccination Assessment Toolkit, Advance Practice Centers
- Thompson et al JAMA 2004, Dao et al JID 2010; 202(6):881–888).
About Rebecca Gehring
Rebecca Gehring serves as a Program Analyst for the Immunization and Billing projects at NACCHO. Her work includes policy development, technical assistance to local health departments, and co-chair of the Decision Makers Working Group for the National Adult Influenza and Immunization Summit.