Healthcare Providers: A Strong Vaccination Recommendation can be a Game-Changer this Flu Season
By Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams M.D., M.P.H., Surgeon General of the United States
It’s officially flu season. Every year millions of Americans needlessly suffer from the flu, and thousands will be hospitalized or even die as a result of becoming infected with the virus. It’s heartbreaking that thousands of deaths from influenza still occur in our country every year. As a health care provider, your strong recommendation to your patients to get a flu vaccine this season can be a game-changer in reducing this disease burden.
Here are five tips for communicating the importance of getting a flu vaccination this season:
1. Tailor reasons to the individual. Explain why someone — based on age, health status, lifestyle, occupation, or another risk factor — should get a flu shot. For example, the flu vaccine is especially important for patients age 65 or older because they are more likely to develop serious flu-related complications, such as pneumonia.
2. Discuss how vaccination prevents illness. From averting the flu entirely to reducing its severity if one does get sick, it’s important to remind patients of the many positive benefits of flu vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines a number of these benefits of the flu vaccine on their website.
3. Outline the consequences of getting sick. The flu can result in serious health complications and time lost from work or family obligations. Prevention is better than treatment when it comes to any illness, and the flu is no exception.
4. Explain how vaccines protect loved ones. Influenza, like a number of other vaccine-preventable diseases, is contagious and can be serious. Vaccines do not just protect you; they also protect the people around you by limiting the spread of disease. Understanding how the flu vaccine protects their loved ones can be an important motivator for some patients to get vaccinated.
5. Answer and solicit questions with compassion. It’s normal to have questions about vaccines. Use easy-to-understand language to talk about patient concerns including side effects, safety, and vaccine effectiveness. CDC offers great resources to help you address common questions and educate patients. Vaccines.gov is a comprehensive website you can recommend to patients to help them learn about immunization.
You’re a trusted voice in the community. Patients trust you to give them the best advice on how to protect their health. Your counsel helps patients make informed decisions. As a standard of practice, all health care providers have the responsibility to routinely assess the vaccination status of their patients. Flu season provides yet another opportunity to make sure your patients are fully vaccinated.
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