Home Health & Hospice

Q: How can we educate our patients on the importance of receiving the flu vaccine every year?

Homecare Insider, October 7, 2013


Q: Some of our patients are resistant to receiving a yearly influenza vaccination because they have already received vaccines in previous years, or have gotten through past flu seasons without it. How can we educate them on the importance of receiving this vaccine every year? What are some preventative steps we can suggest for those who continue to be resistant?

A: There are many different types of influenza, and it is not possible to predict with certainty which flu viruses will predominate during a given season. Patients should be made aware that uncertainty of the viruses continually puts them at risk each year. The flu vaccine is designed to protect against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season. Three kinds of influenza viruses commonly circulate among people today:

  • Influenza A (H1N1) viruses
  • Influenza A (H3N2) viruses
  • Influenza B viruses

Multiple studies conducted over different seasons and across vaccine types and virus subtypes have shown that the body’s immunity to influenza viruses (acquired either through natural infection or vaccination) declines over time. The decline in antibodies is influenced by several factors, including the antigen used in the vaccine, the age of the person being vaccinated, and the person’s general health (certain chronic health conditions may have an impact on immunity). When most healthy people with regular immune systems are vaccinated, their bodies produce antibodies and they are protected throughout the flu season. People with weakened immune systems may not generate the same amount of antibodies after vaccination; further, their antibody levels may drop more quickly compared to healthy people.

Getting the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available each year is always a good idea, especially for older homecare patients. The protection afforded by the vaccine lasts throughout the flu season. However, patients should also take the following everyday preventive steps:

  • Wash their hands to reduce the spread of germs
  • Cover their coughs
  • Avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, especially if someone within their home is sick