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NFID Medical Director Shares Stories to Inspire Patients & Providers Alike to Get Flu Shots

William Schaffner, MD, shares stories to motivate patients and health care providers to receive the flu vaccine.

William Schaffner, MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, shares stories to motivate patients and health care providers to receive the flu vaccine.

Interview Transcript (modified slightly for readability):

"Educating the public is, of course, what you do in Contagion, and I’m so proud of you for doing that, and [for] helping to educate the profession, also. We have to keep providing good information.

There are a couple of stories that I think we haven’t told about the flu that actually might motivate both providers and patients to get the vaccine. The first is that older people are frailer. After they get influenza, many of them on their recovery are weakened and they never quite get back up to that strong level of functioning in society that they had before they became ill. And that starts their downward slide to disability. Nobody over age 65 wants to become disabled, so we need to tell that message.

Another message, and this is aimed at providers also, is it’s not very well known that influenza sets up an inflammatory state. While we recover from that lung infection, influenza, the inflammatory state remains. And for the several weeks, up to a month or two after flu, patients are definitely at increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, all potentially prevented by vaccination.

So, if providers needed more motivation—preventing heart attacks and strokes with a vaccine, wow! That’s news. Preventing disability? That ought to be news to patients and motivate them to get the vaccine. And mind you, for people aged 65 and older, we have vaccines specially formulated that provide greater protection for them than the standard vaccine. So, they would ask their providers if that’s the right vaccine for them.”