Older adults are known to suffer from more severe complications caused by the flu. 90% of deaths due to influenza are experienced by adults aged 65 and older. In 2009, the FDA licensed the high-dose influenza vaccination with 4 times more influenza haemagglutinin than the standard-dose. It was passed according to accelerated approval regulations. However, more research needs to be conducted to gather additional data beyond what was done prior to the high-dose vaccination’s approval to assess the effectiveness of the high-dose.
This article discusses a retrospective cohort analysis that studies the effectiveness of the high-dose versus the standard-dose influenza vaccinations in adults aged 65 and older. Influenza vaccination and infection rates were gathered from the US Medicare Program. The participants were thus enrolled in Medicare and had a Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System or Current Procedural Terminology code for either the high-dose or low-dose influenza vaccines between August 2012 and January 2013. The vaccinations were received in community pharmacy settings. If a participant had influenza before receiving the vaccination or received both the high-dose and standard-dose, he or she was excluded from the study.
Of the 12.5 million Medicare beneficiaries received influenza vaccinations within the set time frame, 19% received high-dose vaccinations and 81% received standard-dose vaccinations. The participants were said to be similar in age and medical condition. The high-dose vaccination was more effective in participants between the ages of 65 to 85 years old. There was a 22% reduction in influenza diagnosis in the group that received the high-dose vaccine. The high-dose vaccine was also more effective in preventing hospital and community setting influenza-related outcomes.
Lancet Infect Dis. 2015; 15(3): 293-300.
Because pharmacists have recently been given the responsibility of providing immunizations, the next step is to ensure that the most effective vaccines are being distributed to the population. At my Community Health site, almost all the older adults tell me that they have received their ‘flu shot’ at their community pharmacy. The results found in this study include evidence that can potentially lead to preventing the flu in these older adults who now come to the pharmacy for their influenza vaccination. Do you agree that pharmacists’ roles go beyond striving for positive health outcomes from medications to now including positive health outcomes from vaccinations?