On September 17, NACCHO staff attended the 2015 Influenza/Pneumococcal News Conference hosted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) promoting the importance of seasonal influenza and pneumococcal vaccination. The event, moderated by Dr. William Schaffner, M.D., medical director of NFID and professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, included presentations from Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, M.D., M.P.H., professor of medicine and director, Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., M.B.E., pediatrician, blogger (Seattle Mama Doc) and executive director of Digital Health at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC, offered a strategy to reduce the risk of severe disease and death caused by influenza, citing that everyone should follow these three steps:
- Get vaccinated annually;
- Take every day preventive actions. Cover your cough and sneeze. If you’re sick, stay home; and
- If your doctor prescribes antiviral medications, take them.
All of the presenters noted that influenza is unpredictable, and that by being vaccinated, you are not only protecting yourself, but also those who are under 6 months of age and too young to be vaccinated, as well as those with chronic conditions who are at higher risk for serious complications.
Additionally, experts recommend pneumococcal vaccination for everyone age 65 years and older and for adults with certain chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and lung disorders, as well for people who smoke. Pneumococcal disease causes a range of serious illnesses and often is a common and deadly complication of influenza. For more information about pneumococcal vaccine recommendations, ask a healthcare provider. Dr. Schaffner also noted, “Either pneumococcal vaccine can be given at the same time as the influenza vaccine, and both are covered by Medicare, meaning now is a great time to get protected against both flu and pneumonia.”
Local health departments have an important role to play in educating clients, administering vaccines, and responding to influenza. For additional influenza prevention and response tools and resources, visit NACCHO’s website and view an interactive mapping tool to see vaccination claims rates for Medicare beneficiaries.