With pharmacists being the most accessible health care providers, they are in a unique position to help protect their communities against the spread of the flu.
Washington, DC (Vocus) September 5, 2009 -
The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) is recommending that the public begin visiting their local pharmacist or other health care provider to get vaccinated against influenza. Currently almost 80,000 pharmacists have been trained to administer immunizations and have the authority to administer vaccines in all 50 states, excluding the District of Columbia. Consumers are encouraged to check with their pharmacist in advance to ensure immunizations are offered and to find out scheduled hours.
"The best way to reduce one's chances of getting the flu is to be proactive and get a yearly influenza vaccination," said APhA CEO and Executive Vice President Thomas Menighan. "With pharmacists being the most accessible health care providers, they are in a unique position to help protect their communities against the spread of the flu."
Annually 5 to 20 percent of the US population is infected by influenza, resulting in nearly 36,000 deaths and over 200,000 hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Consistent with the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations, APhA recommends the following people should get vaccinated each year:
- All persons, including school-aged children, who want to reduce their risk of becoming ill with influenza or spreading it to others
- Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday
- Women who will be pregnant during the influenza season
- People 50 years of age and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
- Health care workers
- Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
- Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
Even though the peak of the influenza season is typically in February, APhA encourages consumers to talk to be proactive and talk to their pharmacists about their vaccination needs. Patients can be vaccinated into February and beyond, as long as vaccine supply is available.
In addition to getting an annual flu vaccination, practicing good health habits will help reduce one's risk of getting the flu. APhA suggests adhering to the CDC's guidelines for preventing the flu:
1. Avoid close contact
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
2. Stay home when you are sick
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
3. Cover your mouth and nose
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
4. Wash your hands
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
5. Avoid touching your eyes nose or mouth
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
6. Practice other good health habits
Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
It is important to note that the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect patients against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. Currently there is not a vaccine available to protect against the H1N1 virus. A vaccine is currently in production and is supposed to be ready mid-October. Until a vaccine is available, patients can best protect themselves from the H1N1 virus by following the same preventative strategies outlined above for seasonal influenza.
To address the public health risk posed by the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, APhA is ramping up their efforts to train additional pharmacists to provide immunizations by year end.
About the American Pharmacists Association (APhA)
The American Pharmacists Association, founded in 1852 as the American Pharmaceutical Association, represents more than 62,000 practicing pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, student pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and others interested in advancing the profession. APhA, dedicated to helping all pharmacists improve medication use and advance patient care, is the first-established and largest association of pharmacists in the United States. APhA members provide care in all practice settings, including community pharmacies, health systems, long-term care facilities, managed care organizations, hospice settings, and the uniformed services.