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Misconceptions about the risks and benefits of the seasonal flu vaccine are at a three-year high.
A survey of primary care physicians (PCPs) by InCrowd found that 51% of those who responded say there is confusion among patients who decline flu shots. This finding is up from 44% of a similar survey of physicians in 2016.
In a companion microsurvey of pharmacists, InCrowd found that 42% said they don't report flu shots to primary care physicians, says Hayes Diane Hayes, PhD, InCrowd's president and co-founder, tells Drug Topics.
While the company didn't investigate the reasons for the misperceptions, it was able to find some clues from physician comments, Hayes says. "We know from other comments that patients still believe they can get the flu from the vaccination, that they feel they are healthy and don't need vaccinations, and that it doesn't protect against all strains," she said.
The group asked PCPs for their thoughts on why misconceptions may be occurring and found that 31% said it takes time to educate patients. Hayes said this means healthcare professionals such as pharmacists "just have to keep at it" to spread their message.
The study also found that 37% of primary care physicians expressed concerns that immunizations received at pharmacies were not being recorded in a patient's medical record. “As soon as the vaccine is administered, the patients leave the pharmacy. They could have a reaction in the parking lot and no one would know,” one pharmacist said in the survey.
She adds that many pharmacists who report the vaccinations don't have a consistent methodical process for doing so. According to the study data, 42% of pharmacists in the survey said they report the data to primary care offices via fax, while another 16% report updating the records through the electronic medical records.
Hayes said improving communication between primary care physicians and pharmacists could help alleviate physician concerns about off-site immunizations.
"The perceived value that PCPs see from the pharmacy flu shots, such as ease of access for patients, a faster experience with no appointment needed, and that they’re often cheaper, is offset by PCP frustrations-of feeling intermediated from their patients and at a disadvantage by not consistently receiving updates from pharmacies," she says. Addressing these concerns and improving reporting habits could create more opportunities for pharmacies.
"Pharmacists have an opportunity to turn PCPs into their allies and be partners in the fight against influenza outbreaks if they resolve the matter of consistent flu vaccine reporting back to physicians," Hayes said.