Leading health organizations are urging those with diabetes and other chronic conditions to get the influenza vaccine.
Compared with last year’s mild flu season, there have already been more than 3 times the number of flu-related deaths, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) said in a news release.1 So far this season, there have been at least 25 million illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations, and 18,000 deaths from flu, according to the CDC.2
While seasonal influenza activity in the United States is declining, flu season is expected to continue well into spring, the ADA noted.
As a result, the ADA, the American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association are teaming up to send a message to people who have not yet received this season’s flu vaccine: “It’s not too late to protect yourself and others, some of whom are more vulnerable to the dangers of the flu, by getting your flu shot,” ADA said.
“While no one wants to experience the misery of the flu, for many people with chronic conditions, the flu causes serious complications, leading to hospitalization or in some instances death,” the ADA added. In recent years, about 9 out of every 10 people who were in the hospital due to the flu had at least one underlying medical condition, the CDC found.3
“In recent years, almost a third of the people hospitalized due to the flu had diabetes,” said Robert Gabbay, MD, chief scientific and medical officer for the ADA. “The impact from any illness can pose a threat to someone with diabetes, especially considering many people who live with diabetes have other complications like heart disease and kidney disease.”
Most pharmacies have a significant number of patients with diabetes in their population, along with those who have other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and asthma, John Beckner, RPh, senior director of strategic initiatives for the National Community Pharmacists Association said during Drug Topics®’s recent Around the Practice roundtable. “Smokers could also benefit,” Beckner noted. “Anyone can benefit from the seasonal flu vaccine, but certainly those populations could benefit and should protect themselves against serious disease.”
To boost vaccine uptake for those with chronic conditions, pharmacists can “customize the message” to each disease patient population instead of saying, “everyone 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine,” said Jeff Goad, PharmD, MPH, president-elect of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and tenured professor of pharmacy practice and associate dean of academic affairs at Chapman University School of Pharmacy, during the roundtable.
“You can customize it, then it becomes a recommendation for them, not for everyone,” Goad said. For example, explain to patients, “You’re a smoker, which increases your risk of pneumococcal pneumonia” or “You have diabetes, which increases your risk of more severe disease,” Goad said.
1. Most people hospitalized with the flu have a chronic illness. News release. American Diabetes Association. February 6, 2023. Accessed February 21, 2023. https://diabetes.org/newsroom/press-releases/2023/most-people-hospitalized-with-flu-have-chronic-illness
2. Weekly US influenza surveillance report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated February 17, 2023. Accessed February 21, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm
3. A chronic health condition can increase your risk. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed February 21, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/chronic-conditions/index.htm