NEWS
November 19, 2021

What Nurses Should Know About Flu Season 2021

What Nurses Should Know About Flu Season 2021
Kathleen Gaines
By: Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, BA, CBC

As the country continues to battle COVID-19, another deadly respiratory illness is starting to emerge. Influenza. Much forgotten last year because of the ongoing pandemic, kids remaining home from school, most still working from home, and the world more or less remaining shut down - flu season has officially begun and the American Nurses Association (ANA) does not want it to be forgotten. 

In September, the ANA in collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur, the global vaccines division of Sanofi, and actress Jennifer Grey launched the Flu Shot Fridays national flu vaccination campaign. According to the press release, the campaign was designed to encourage everyone six months and older focusing specifically on adults 50 years of age and older as well as people living with chronic health conditions to get their annual flu vaccine. 

“The flu vaccine is one of our best defenses to prevent transmission of influenza this fall,” said ANA President Ernest J. Grant, Ph.D., RN, FAAN. “Getting the flu vaccine is especially critical for people with compromised immune systems, as the flu can lead to hospitalization and even death.

2021-2022 Available Flu Vaccines

There are numerous flu vaccines available to the general public, all of which are covered by private and public insurance. Those without insurance can often get a low-cost or even no-cost flu vaccine at major pharmacies. The availability of specific types will vary based on location and population needs. The CDC recommends that all individuals over 6 months of age receive their annual flu vaccine by the end of October. 

The four most common flu shots this year are:

  • Standard dose flu shots. An inactivated influenza vaccine is given via intramuscular injection.
  • High-dose shots for people 65 years and older.
  • Shots made with flu virus grown in cell culture. No eggs are involved in the production of this vaccine.
  • Live attenuated influenza vaccine. A vaccine made with an attenuated live virus that is given by a nasal spray vaccine.

The CDC has a complete breakdown of all the flu vaccinations available in the United States for the 2021-2022 flu season.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the quadrivalent formula for the egg-based influenza vaccine contains the following:

  • an A/Victoria/2570/2019 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus;
  • an A/Cambodia/e0826360/2020 (H3N2)-like virus;
  • a B/Washington/02/2019- like virus (B/Victoria lineage);
  • a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata lineage).

According to the FDA, the quadrivalent formula for the cell or recombinant based influenza vaccine contains the following:  

  • an A/Wisconsin/588/2019 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus;
  • an A/Cambodia/e0826360/2020 (H3N2)-like virus;
  • a B/Washington/02/2019- like virus (B/Victoria lineage);
  • a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata lineage).

According to the FDA, the trivalent influenza vaccine contains the following: 

  • A(H1N1) pdm09, 
  • A(H3N2) 
  • B/Washington/02/2019-like virus (B/Victoria lineage)

There are very few contraindications for the standard dose flu vaccine but it is important to speak to your doctor if you have any questions.

The live attenuated nasal spray vaccine is contraindicated in the following populations according to the CDC:

  • Adults age 50 or older
  • Children 2 years through 17 years of age who are receiving aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications.
  • Children 2 years through 4 years who have asthma or who have had a history of wheezing in the past 12 months.
  • Children younger than 2
  • People who are immunocompromised (ex. Cancer patients or individuals living with HIV/AIDS)
  • People who care for severely immunocompromised persons who require a protected environment
  • People who have taken influenza antiviral drugs within the previous 48 hours such as Tamiflu.
  • Pregnant women

The high-dose flu vaccine is specifically designed for people 65 years and older as it is intended to give older individuals a better immune response which will give better protection against the flu. The vaccine contains four times the antigen of a standard dose flu vaccine.

It’s important to note that the flu vaccine will NOT prevent COVID-19 or decrease the symptoms associated with COVID-19. Additionally, getting the flu vaccine will not cause COVID-19 or increase the likelihood of contracting COVID-19.

Initially, it was recommended that individuals that receive the COVID vaccine don’t receive the flu vaccine on the same day; however, new studies published by the CDC state that the COVID vaccine may be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccines. 

Flu Shot Fridays

Flu Shot Friday’s is a PSA, digital and social media posts along with media interviews by Grey as well as ANA President Grant. The campaign is hoping the added star power of Grey, most notably known for her roles in Dirty Dancing and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, will encourage the public to get their flu vaccine, especially those at increased risk. 

“Everyone remembers the kid who was made into some sort of hero for skipping school, but why? I mean, taking ‘me time’ is great, but there are ways to make it a bit more meaningful,” Grey says in the opening of the TV spot.

“So what are you waiting for? Don’t risk sick days stuck in bed with the flu. Get your flu shot and take some time for yourself,” she adds later.

The website has excellent, easy to read and understand information about the flu shot and flu season while highlighting the importance of becoming vaccinated. Key information relayed include:

  • According to a 10-year study of 1,227 adults aged 40+ found that a first heart attack is approximately 10 times more likely following a flu infection. The 10-year study also examined 762 adults aged 40+ and showed an approximately 8 times increase in the likelihood of a first stroke following a flu infection. 
  • An estimated 77% of flu-related hospitalizations in 2018 and 2019 were for adults 50+. 
  • Even when well-managed, people with diabetes (type 1, type 2, or gestational) are at an increased risk of serious flu-related complications, which can result in hospitalization and sometimes even death. 
  • The flu can worsen symptoms for people living with lung diseases, such as COPD, asthma, or cystic fibrosis, and may lead to pneumonia. 

Flu Shot Fridays website also has an easy-to-use flu vaccine locator. Individuals can simply click on the link, input their zip code and how far they are willing to travel as well as the type of flu shot desired, and a list of options will populate. It is even possible to make an appointment online directly from the linked website! 

To learn more about the importance of getting a flu vaccination and access resources and tips, visit FluShotFridays.com.

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