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Providers: Be Assertive When Recommending Flu Vaccination to Older Adults


William Schaffner, MD, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases’ (NFID) and infectious disease physician at Vanderbilt, explains how health care providers can work towards getting patients who are aged 65 and older to receive a flu shot.

Interview Transcript (modified slightly for readability):

[So, what about] the role of the provider, and physicians for sure, but also pharmacists, and everyone else who deals with the public? It is said that we should recommend influenza vaccine to everyone because the recommendations say that everyone older than 6 months of age should be vaccinated each and every year against influenza.

But a recommendation can be made very casually. ‘Oh, Tom, it’s that time of the year. You ought to think about getting your flu vaccine.’ That’s a recommendation? That’s giving the patient permission to decline vaccination. We don’t say that about the treatment of diabetes. ‘Oh, you ought to think about getting your diabetes treated, Tom.’

We need to insist on vaccination. We need to say, ‘It’s that time of the year; we vaccinate everyone in our practice.’ And if you get pushback, look at the patient in a kind of an alarmed way and say, ‘I’ve been vaccinated. My whole family has been vaccinated. Everybody in the office has been vaccinated. Tom, we’re going to vaccinate you before you go home.’ Because it’s so important to do everything we can to prevent influenza, and if we are more assertive rather than just casually recommending, I think we’ll vaccinate many, many more people.

You’d be surprised how many people have a health care encounter during the fall and leave the doctor’s office, the pharmacy, or wherever, unvaccinated. That shouldn’t happen.”
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Big advances in treatment can't make up for an inability to stop new infections, which number 5,000 per day worldwide.