The New Year is upon us. Unfortunately, it also coincides with flu season and we still have a long way to go when it comes to educating our patients on the benefits of the influenza vaccine. A recent poll found that many Americans don’t believe they need the flu shot. Those who haven’t been immunized cited a variety of reasons including the belief that the flu shot is unnecessary, belief that the vaccination is ineffective, concerns about the side effects or risk and worries that the vaccine could infect them with the flu. As clinicians, we know that the flu shot is safe, effective, and the best protection our patients have against influenza. It is our job to communicate these messages to all of our patients, especially pregnant women.
December 6th marked the beginning of National Influenza Vaccination Week, a national campaign to urge everyone to get the flu vaccine. Throughout the entire flu season, I encourage all health care providers to strongly recommend the flu shot to your patients, emphasizing the importance of this simple preventative health action.
ACOG has a wealth of information to help ob-gyns and other health care providers counsel their patients on the benefits of the flu shot and treating the virus for those who do become ill. From our Committee Opinion and our Influenza Resources page to an algorithm for assessment and treatment for pregnant women for influenza-like illness, ACOG can help you (and your patients) prepare. ACOG’s Immunization program is also offering a new, monthly newsletter. All of these resources and more can be found on ACOG’s Immunization for Women website: www.immunizationforwomen.org.
ACOG’s Immunization program has also developed resources for patients including an FAQ for pregnant women regarding the influenza vaccine that reaffirms that the flu shot is safe for pregnant women. The FAQ also urges pregnant women to receive the vaccination since they can become much sicker than non-pregnant women who get the flu.
And while we are on the subject of immunizations, we have a lot of work to do in the fight against HPV. Studies show that patients are more likely to get the HPV vaccine if it comes strongly recommended by their doctor. Be sure you let your patients know how important this protection is in eradicating cervical cancer from the globe, and encourage them to have their children vaccinated at age 11 or 12 and to get the HPV vaccine themselves if they are under 27.
Start off the New Year by helping your patients stay healthy by strongly recommending and offering the influenza and HPV vaccines. I’ve already gotten my flu shot and have encouraged my family and patients to get vaccinated too. I urge you to join me in leading by example by getting vaccinated and encouraging your office staff to be vaccinated as well.