Each year the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produce flu shots in anticipation of the specific strands that will be most common during the fall and winter. This comes with a set of guidelines that are informed by these seasonal changes.
The 2016 flu shot comes with changes that health professionals and patients should both consider so the flu vaccine can be administered in the most effective way possible. Here's what you need to know:
The seasonal flu is a complicated virus with many strands and the ability to change rapidly. In the 2016-17 season, the CDC predicts that the most common strains in the U.S. will be H3N3, a type B strain and the famous H1N1, or swine flu. Because the population has built new immunities to the virus, the swine flu isn't expected to be anywhere as dangerous as it was in 2009 when it was first discovered. Two variations of the vaccine will be offered, with the "quadrivalent" vaccine protecting against another Type B strain.
One of the most obvious changes for the 2016 flu shot recommendations is that the CDC is strongly encouraging injectable immunizations. The nasal vaccine, which according to the Huffington Post was administered 20 million times in 2015, is not expected to be effective this flu season.
CDC recommends against the nasal spray
The nasal vaccine is still approved by the FDA and available upon request. However, in years past, the effectiveness of the nasal version – a mist spray – has been called in to question. In 2015, the CDC found that the spray was effective in just 3 percent of patients.
Nursing skills: Talking to patients about the flu shot
Patients should be aware of the options available to them, but should strongly be encouraged to opt for a traditional flu shot. The Huffington Post found that helping more patients get vaccinated is an essential pursuit. With a 5 percent increase in flu shot coverage, there could be 800,000 fewer instances of illness and nearly 10,000 fewer hospitalizations.
For patients worried about the injected flu shot or wondering about the differences between the two types available, it's wise to simply reiterate how important the vaccine really is. Patients who wait for one type over the other are more likely to never get one at all. At the same time, waiting until later in the season leaves patients vulnerable and can also be dangerous.
Young people and older adults especially should be educated about the flu shot. Nurses should explain the risks brought on by the seasonal flu, including complications such as pneumonia or infection. Some young children may be frightened or intimidated receiving an injection, so it is best to be comforting and patient. At the same time, parents may have questions about the effectiveness of the flu shot and want to learn more about the specifics.