Louisiana currently has the highest influenza rates in the nation with influenza activity continuing to increase significantly in recent weeks. Vaccine for Children (VFC) Providers should be making a strong recommendation for flu vaccination, be aware of their clinic’s coverage rate, and use evidence-based practices to increase rates for the children in their care.
Louisiana’s early high flu activity has been driven mainly by influenza B circulation with the highest activity currently concentrated in the southern area of the state. School-aged children have been most impacted by influenza in the previous reporting weeks with numerous school outbreaks being reported.
CDC and the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) recommend a yearly flu vaccination as the first and most important step in protecting against flu and its potentially serious complications. VFC Providers should encourage all patients six months of age and older who have not yet received an influenza vaccination this season to be vaccinated against influenza. There are several influenza vaccine options for the 2019-2020 influenza season (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/rr/rr6803a1.htm?s_cid=rr6803a1_w).
This season’s flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses. All flu vaccines are quadrivalent. There were some changes in the age recommendation for two vaccines, which are detailed in the 2019-2020 guidance. More information about the 2019-2020 influenza season is available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2019-2020.htm
Flu vaccine has many benefits. Flu vaccination can:
- Reduce the risk of flu illness and serious flu outcomes like hospitalization, ICU admission or even death.
- Prevent millions of illnesses, tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths every year (nationally).
- Make illness less severe if children do get sick.
Louisiana LVFC Providers are encouraged to use Strategies to Increase Immunization Coverage Rates developed by the Louisiana AAP and LDH. This resource identifies several best practices to increase rates and is in the LINKS Document Center (https://lalinks.org/linksweb/LINKS_DCNTR.html). These practices include: 1) utilizing the reminder recall functionally of LINKS to identify, contact and promote flu vaccination to the families of eligible children and teens in your practice; 2) implementing standing orders for flu vaccination; 3) incorporating EHR system prompts; and 4) holding extended clinic hours.