Contagion&reg Speaks with National Foundation for Infectious Diseases Medical Director on Influenza


William Schaffner, MD, explains what we can expect for the 2017-2018 flu season and how clinicians can ensure their patients get vaccinated.

CRANBURY, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Contagion®, the nation’s leading digital and print publication that provides information to practitioners and specialists working in the field of infectious disease, recently spoke with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases’ (NFID) medical director William Schaffner, MD, about influenza, this year’s flu season, and how clinicians can encourage their patients to get the vaccine, particularly those over 65.

Schaffner shared his insight on the 2017-2018 flu season saying, “If you look at the average, it will peak in the United States in February, but it doesn’t peak all over the country at the same time. Here and there you’ll have outbreaks of influenza and its very community-specific, but we’ll get most of our flu usually in the beginning of the new year. And of course, it can extend into March, and as it did last year, it was kind of [a] late flu into April.”

Additionally, Schaffner highlighted the importance of flu vaccines for adults 65 and older, saying, “You know, people aged 65 and older have a diminished immune system. It doesn’t work as well. It’s not as responsive as the immune system in younger people, and so, they are disproportionately made ill. They get more serious illness when they’re infected with influenza.”

As older adults are at a higher risk for developing complications associated with flu, Schaffner stressed that it is the job of health care providers to be assertive when recommending that patients, especially those in this older population, get vaccinated.

“We need to insist on vaccination,” said Schaffner. “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.”

Schaffner also addressed a common complaint about the seasonal flu vaccine that continues to make headlines each year, namely that the vaccine doesn’t work well enough. “[The] flu vaccine is a pretty darn good vaccine,” said Schaffner. “It’s not a perfect vaccine. It’s not like the measles vaccines that will prevent measles completely. We all know that we have to get the vaccine each year because the virus mutates and we have to reformulate [it],” he said, adding that although sometimes individuals can still get influenza despite vaccination, the infection will be much milder because of the vaccine.

“Let’s think about the jar [as] three-quarters full, rather than half empty,” said Schaffner. “Put the accent on the positive. We should use this vaccine, which is the best we have available today, to prevent as many illnesses as possible.”

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About Contagion®

Contagion® is a fully integrated news resource covering all areas of infectious disease. Through our website, quarterly journal, email newsletters, social media outlets and Outbreak Monitor, we provide practitioners and specialists with disease-specific information designed to improve patient outcomes and assist with the identification, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infectious diseases. Our mission is to assure that the health care community and public have the knowledge to make more informed choices and have a positive impact on patient outcomes.

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