By Allison Hydzik
As this year’s particularly tough
flu season appears to be fading, UPMC is already preparing more
options to help the public and employees defend against the flu next season.
The health care system’s flu task force recently approved making three
additional flu vaccine options standard, with plans to have the options available
to UPMC physician offices, urgent care clinics and employee health centers late
summer, when vaccine manufacturers begin shipments.
“I strongly support this measure,” said Rick
Zimmerman, M.D., a professor in the University of Pittsburgh Department of
Family Medicine, who specializes in immunizations and vaccine-preventable
diseases. “The influenza vaccine is the best way to avoid what can be a truly
devastating illness, and it’s recommended for everyone older than 6 months. UPMC’s
new flu shot options are guided by the most recent research and offer vaccines
that have the highest likelihood of giving each person the best possible
protection against the flu.”
In addition to the standard flu vaccine, which is made each year to
protect against the three strains of flu that world health officials predict are
most likely to be in circulation, UPMC will be adding:
UPMC increased flu vaccination rates among its employees by more than
10 percent this year, with more than 80 percent of hospital staff receiving the
flu vaccine, well above the most recent statistics on nationwide health care
worker vaccination rates.
- A vaccine called “inactivated influenza vaccine
4,” or IIV4, which adds a fourth strain for protection against the four flu
strains most likely to be circulating. In the 2012-13 flu season, a strain of
flu that was not covered by the standard three-strain flu vaccine caused the
majority of the flu cases in Pittsburgh and nationwide. This vaccine is recommended for people 6
months of age and older. If manufacturers are low on supplies, the three-strain
vaccine will be offered.
- A “high-dose” vaccine, which has four times the part
of the vaccine that prompts the body to make antibodies against the flu. Recent research has found that the high-dose
vaccine, recommended for adults 65 and over, decreases pneumonia related to
flu-like illness in the elderly.
- A “recombinant influenza vaccine,” or RIV, which
does not contain any egg protein. This will be recommended for adults ages 18
to 49 with severe egg allergies. The standard flu vaccine is created using
eggs, meaning it isn’t safe for people who have anaphylaxis to eggs.
“We’re really proud of this accomplishment,” said Tami Minnier, chief
quality officer for UPMC. “And next year we want it to be even higher. By
offering these additional options, we want to vaccinate as many people as
possible – both our employees and people in the communities we serve – with the
best vaccine for them. The more people we can protect against the flu, the less
serious cases we’ll see in our hospitals.”
And even though UPMC is looking ahead to the next flu season, Minnier noted that this year’s flu season isn’t over yet--and it isn’t too late
to get this year’s flu shot. Available at physician offices and UPMC Urgent
Care locations throughout the region, this year’s standard flu vaccine is a
good match to the H1N1 strain causing the most serious illnesses.
Labels: flu season, flu shot, Rick Zimmerman