How Can Pharmacists Improve Flu Vaccination Rates in Patients with COPD?

AUGUST 02, 2017
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Patients who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at substantial risk of morbidity and mortality if influenza is contracted. However, many patients with COPD fail to receive an annual influenza vaccination. Pharmacists can play a crucial role in promoting the flu vaccine to these patients by recognizing the characteristics of those who do not seek vaccinations.

Healthy People 2010 aspired to a 60% coverage rate for high-risk adults, but in 2008 less than 40% of individuals with COPD were vaccinated. Healthy People 2020 increases that goal to 90%, yet vaccination rates among these patients rarely exceed 50%. Unvaccinated individuals with COPD risk exacerbations, greater pulmonary function impairment, reduced quality of life, and economic burden if they develop the flu.

A team of pharmacy researchers from the University of New Mexico have published a study in the journal Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy to determine influenza vaccination rates among COPD patients who responded to the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The researchers used this data to identify predisposing, enabling, and need factors that influence the decision to be vaccinated.

From analysis of this data, the researchers determined that 53% of total respondents with COPD had been vaccinated. Increasing age was associated with increasing likelihood of vaccination. Patients who were never married or members of unmarried couples were much less likely to be vaccinated than those who were married, divorced, widowed, or separated.

Patients who indicated that they were current smokers were much less likely to be vaccinated than former or never smokers.

Unemployed individuals were more likely to be vaccinated than employed individuals, and those who had a primary doctor or insurance were also more likely to be vaccinated.

Patients who had not seen a health care provider for a checkup in 1 or more years were less likely to be vaccinated.

The presence of a pharmacist immunizer on the staff of centers that serve the medically underserved increased vaccination rates.

Sometimes, all it takes is a nudge to convince a patient that the flu vaccine is wise. Pharmacists can screen for patients who have COPD and then look for factors associated with failure to be vaccinated. Simply encouraging patients who are likely to opt out of influenza vaccination can elevate vaccination rates significantly.

Arabyat RM, Raisch DW, Bakhireva L. Influenza vaccination for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Implications for pharmacists. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2017 Feb 24. pii: S1551-7411(17)30090-6.