The Importance Of Influenza Vaccination

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Vaccinations are listed among the most important achievements of modern medicine that save lives and protect against complications associated with dangerous infectious diseases. WHO listed vaccines which may protect us from infectious diseases and due to vaccination the one of most dangerous infectious disease have been eliminated which is smallpox. Experts estimate that since 1990 about 122 million people owe their lives to vaccines, without which they would not have had the chance to survive even their childhood. This is because millions of people have been vaccinated against diseases such as influenza, measles, tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, whooping cough and in recent decades pneumococcal pneumonia. According to researches, every year, 2.5 million people worldwide are saved from death due to vaccinations.

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Epidemiological data are unambiguous – it is recommended to be vaccinated to avoid a dangerous infectious disease and prevent complications that can even lead to death. Moreover, due to the herd immunity, vaccination protects not only the vaccinated person but also those people, who cannot be vaccinated due to contraindications as well as infants or chronically ill. The more people are vaccinated, the greater is herd immunity, the more we are all protected against dangerous infectious diseases. Pharmacists as dedicated health care workers immunize people daily and are focused on opportunities to raise public awareness of immunization benefits. The studies present that the rate of vaccinated people increased after approving regulations which allowed pharmacists to administer influenza immunizations across the United States. The seasonal influenza vaccination for adults and people at risk is one of the main focuses of Healthy People 2020.

Many people are still failing to get a seasonal influenza vaccination. As a professional immunizer’s pharmacists should supplement their knowledge about all vaccinations on a regular basis so that the patients would receive reliable information and that convince them that vaccinations are needed.. Influenza viruses attack the airway epithelial cells in which they multiply. As a result, they cause necrosis of these cells, which in turn opens the way for bacterial pathogens. The incubation period is 1-4 days (an average of 1-2 days). An infected person can pose a threat to other people before the symptoms appear, i.e. an infected adult can be a source of infection for others from the day before the onset of symptoms until about 5-7 days after their onset, an infected person can be a source of infection for others up to 3 weeks. Moreover, an infected person can be a source of developing flu for others with severe immunodeficiency, but for those people, the time of flu symptoms can last for weeks or months.

Symptoms of influenza are not characteristic and other respiratory viruses can cause similar symptoms. However, flu should not be confused with the common cold, as it is a serious illness, especially because of the possible occurrence of serious complications. Characteristic of the flu is that the disease most often appears suddenly with high infectivity and is accompanied by respiratory symptoms: cough, sore throat, runny nose, and systemic symptoms: high fever, chills, muscle pain / stiffness, headache, chest pain, malaise, nausea and vomiting. Depending on the patient’s age and general health, the course of the disease may vary. The disease lasts about 7 days (3-5 days on average) if there are no complications. Cough and malaise may persist for over two weeks. Post-influenza complications can occur for everyone, regardless of age and health. The risk of complications is particularly high in the following groups: people after transplants, elderly people, patients with asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases, people with heart and circulatory system diseases, people with kidney problems and people with reduced immunity (e.g. infected with HIV).

Va In those cases, the doctor decides if vaccination against influenza is recommended. In many situations a person at high risk for post-influenza complications may benefit from influenza vaccination, despite existing contraindications. Inactivated influenza vaccines are safe. They are not able to cause disease because they only contain fragments of inactivated (killed) virus that are not able to multiply. Inactivated influenza vaccines can cause unwanted post-vaccination reactions that should not be equated with influenza. These reactions may have the nature of local reactions, i.e. redness, soreness and swelling at the injection site, lasting up to 2-3 days, flu-like symptoms, i.e. fever, headache, muscle pain, malaise are less common and disappear after a few days, in clinical studies, severe adverse vaccination reactions were seen in less than 1% of patients.

Vaccinated people may have other illnesses with symptoms similar to the disease against which they were vaccinated. This is the case with infections of the upper respiratory tract. Apart from influenza, which is the most serious problem, among these diseases similar symptoms are caused by other viruses for which the influenza vaccine does not work. If the upper respiratory tract infection is not confirmed by virological diagnosis, it may not be influenza at all. No vaccine is 100% effective. However, the percentage of people immunized by vaccination can be large enough for vaccinations to protect the overwhelming majority of those vaccinated and to do their job well. In multi-million societies, even effective universal vaccination leaves a number of people who can get sick despite vaccination. If a person falls ill despite vaccination, then the disease lasts a shorter period and is milder. Complications and the necessity for hospitalization are much less frequent.

Due to the high variability of influenza viruses, vaccination must be repeated every epidemic season. The composition of the influenza vaccine is modified every season to give protection against currently circulating influenza strains. Therefore, due to the high degree of variability of influenza viruses, a history of influenza infection or a one-time vaccination against influenza does not constitute lifetime protection against re-infection. In addition, the level of antibodies produced in response to contact with influenza antigens decreases over time and may not be enough to give long-term protection. Influenza vaccinations are necessary because flu is a viral disease and cannot be treated by using antibiotics. In addition, there is increasing the resistance of influenza virus for antiviral drugs. During the flu, patient can develop bacterial infection and the course of the disease may be unpredictable. Antibiotic resistance is increasing. Severe pneumococcal infections are increasingly causing pneumococcal bacteria resistant to antibiotics. With pneumococcal or meningococcal sepsis, even rapid administration of an antibiotic may not save the patient.

Vaccinations of healthcare workers give individual protection for themselves, protection for their patients and colleagues. Not immunized healthcare workers can be a source of infection for patients and colleagues. The American Advisory Committee on Vaccination (ACIP) due to the high risk of infection in the workplace and/or serious consequences of the disease and the risk to patients recommends routine vaccinations (unless contraindicated) against seasonal influenza. Every flu season, pharmacists’ debate on how to more effectively recommend influenza vaccination to patients. Influenza is a serious illness and vaccination is the best way to prevent it. Community pharmacies are using vaccine forecasting to a proactive recommendation. Moreover, the strategy including the documenting of care.

Patients may come across false information about influenza and vaccination. This information can affect their emotions, attitudes, and behavior. In such a situation, convincing them to be vaccinated against influenza can be a difficult task for pharmacist. There are proven communication techniques to help you overcome patient resistance and convince them to be the most effective prevention. Those techniques help to start a pharmacist-patient dialogue about vaccination. Paraphrasing and asking open-ended questions is a simple and motivational method to encourage patients to get vaccinated. This method can help patients change their views on the influenza vaccination. It has been shown many times that during a pharmacist-patient conversation, arguments directly related to patient motivation are very effective. By using this communication technique, the pharmacist can convince patients to realize the importance of preventing disease to avoid additional complications. When patients have objections to flu vaccinations, paraphrasing their statements and asking questions can help change patients’ attitudes and convince them to get vaccinated.

Increasing the availability and universality of vaccinations and maintaining a high level of safety of preventive vaccinations is the main focus of today’s healthcare. The role of pharmacists in preventive vaccinations cannot be overestimated. The pharmacists increased the number of vaccinations given but goals are still not achieved. It is important for professionals to learn techniques from the field of motivational interviewing and interpersonal communication, with particular attention to non-verbal communication and listening in order to improve vaccinations rates. However, knowledge of techniques is not enough. Systematic and continuous improvement of these skills is needed.

14 May 2021

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