by Heather Mercer
Executive Director, ImmunizeAR
Last flu season was brutal. In Arkansas, 227 people died from influenza, including 171 adults who were 65 and older, and we had a record number of flu-related hospitalizations. Arkansans aren’t doing a great job getting flu vaccines. According to the CDC, only 46 percent of the general population got a flu vaccine during the 2016-17 season.¹ One reason for the low vaccination rate in Arkansas may be a lack of patient understanding of the efficacy of the flu vaccine. The media didn’t help this last year when they wrongly reported the U.S. flu vaccine was only 10 percent effective based on Australia’s flu season. Vaccinations for other diseases work so well that people may have unrealistic expectations for the flu vaccine. Some individuals choose not to get the flu shot because of the evidence that the flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective in preventing the flu. However, if someone receives the flu shot and still gets the flu, the flu shot can reduce the severity of their symptoms and help them stay out of the hospital. A better understanding of this information could help increase people’s willingness to accept the vaccine.
To improve the numbers of Arkansan’s getting the flu vaccine, The Arkansas Immunization Action Coalition (ImmunizeAR) has available for distribution, by downloading and printing from their website, a Flu Prevention Workshop toolkit, “Let’s Talk About the Flu.” The toolkit provides all the materials needed for a church or a community-based organization to host a one-hour long interactive workshop in plain language. It is designed to help increase flu vaccinations among adults, including older adults. The purpose of the workshop is to help community members learn about the flu in an easy to understand manner, provide information about the flu vaccine, address questions and concerns about the flu vaccine in a supportive environment, and if possible provide the flu vaccine at the end of the workshop with the assistance of a pharmacist. The toolkit is available on the ImmunizeAR website in English and Spanish https://www.immunizear.org/let-s-talk-about-the-flu .
It is important for everyone over the age of six months to get a flu vaccine every year. For older adults and others who are at high-risk of complications, a flu vaccine can reduce hospitalizations by as much as 70 percent and deaths by 85 percent.² It is the best way to protect you and your family.
The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in the community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body. It is recommended people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. The flu vaccine is available at most pharmacies and physician offices and the Arkansas Department of Health that started their mass flu clinics at the end of September. You can go to this link to find a mass flu clinic in your area: https://www.immunizear.org/news-and-events-1
ImmunizeAR is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving vaccination rates for all Arkansans through education, advocacy, and statewide partnerships. If you would like more information about the flu prevention toolkit or ImmunizeAR, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- FluVaxView 2016-2017 Flu vaccination rates for persons aged 6 months and older. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/fluvaxview/reportshtml/trends/index.html