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The 2023-2024 Flu Season: What Pharmacists Need to Know

Last updated Aug 21, 2023 | Health Trends, Pharmacy Management, Pharmacy News

As we gear up for the upcoming flu season of 2023-2024, it’s important to reflect on the lessons of the previous year, and understand how the coming year may look different. In this article, we’ll delve into a comprehensive breakdown of the past season’s dynamics and provide valuable insights to equip you for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Understanding the Flu and Its Impact

Before getting into preparations, let’s establish a foundational understanding of influenza. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the flu as a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that target the nose, throat, and occasionally the lungs. The range of symptoms can vary from mild to severe, and in some cases, it can lead to fatal outcomes. The most effective preventive measure against the flu is getting an annual flu vaccine.

Getting Vaccinated for the Flu

The CDC says ideally, everyone who is eligible for a flu vaccine should be vaccinated by the end of October – the ideal time to get vaccinated being September or October. It is important to note, if a patient misses this time frame and would like to receive the vaccine after October, the CDC notes that it is still helpful in preventing disease during peak season. 

2023 Flu Vaccination Changes 
As we look at the 2023-2024 flu season, what’s new for this year?

According to the CDC, in the 2023-2024 season, the U.S. flu vaccines will contain an updated influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 component: 

  • A/Victoria/4897/2022 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus for egg-based vaccines
  • A/Wisconsin/67/2022 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus for cell-based or recombinant vaccines

As far as changes to the 2023-2024 CDC Flu Vaccination Recommendations, the main change coming this year is that ACIP voted that people with egg allergy may receive any flu vaccine (egg-based or non-egg based) that is otherwise appropriate for their age and health status. Additional safety measures are no longer recommended for flu vaccination beyond those recommended for receipt of any vaccine.

Flu Prevention

Now, your patients are vaccinated and may be wondering what they can do to stay healthy. Below are a few ways they can stay healthy and/or prevent disease spread.

  1. Encourage your patients to stay home when they are sick
  2. Advise patients to cover their coughs and sneezes
  3. Encourage your patients to wash their hands often and thoroughly
  4. Inform patients to avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth unnecessarily
  5. Advise patients to maintain good overall hygiene

2023-2024 Flu Season Predictions

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, flu activity has been increasingly hard to predict. The 2022-2023 season was a big season for respiratory viruses after mild seasons the previous two years – possibly due in part to the preventative measures that were being taken for COVID-19 prevention in 2020 and 2021.

While the CDC has yet to release its first 2023-2024 estimates for the geographic spread of the virus during the upcoming flu season, experts often look at Southern Hemispheric flu activity for clues as to what could happen in the United States. The CDC reported that in the 2023 Southern Hemisphere flu season, some countries had early and/or intense influenza A activity. 

While we can’t predict for certain what this flu season will bring, it’s important to stay informed on flu activity and the latest recommendations to effectively counsel patients. 

Continue to Educate & Communicate with Patients

With flu season on the horizon, coupled with the predicted emergence of RSV and a late-summer wave of COVID-19,  it is imperative to continue to educate and encourage your patients to take precautions to limit disease for not only them but their community as well. Below are a few ways to help you efficiently communicate with your patients this flu season.

  • Use a digital communication platform with clinical identification capabilities to target patients eligible for, or potentially in need of, specific vaccinations including flu shots. For patients who have already opted for basic immunizations like the flu shot, communicate other prevention methods to help them stay healthy. 
  • Add updates or information on vaccination service information to your pharmacy IVR greeting or on-hold messages. 
  • Create a website banner or graphic with updates on the flu and/or reminders to encourage flu shots. 

To learn more about how digital communication and engagement tools can help you communicate with your patients this flu season, get in touch today

 

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