Ever wonder why community physician practices have to pre-order flu vaccine?

Flu is a serious disease. Estimates vary, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that seasonal flu-related deaths in the USA have ranged in recent decades from a low of 3,000 per year to a high of 49,000. (In years when there is a flu pandemic, such as 1957-58, these numbers are even higher.) Deaths can come from direct viral effects or from flu-related complications. The elderly and the infirm are at higher risk, but even healthy people can be affected, and at any age.

It’s hard to avoid exposure to the flu virus. Up to one in ten adults and three in ten children are infected each year. Most healthy adults are actually infectious a day before symptoms develop, and up to seven days after becoming sick. Some infected people show no symptoms but can still spread the virus. Transmitted by droplets expelled by coughing, sneezing or talking, the flu can easily reach other people up to six feet away, and so will spread through a population quickly.

The best defense is to get the annual flu vaccine. It can stop you getting sick from flu, reduce the symptoms if you do become sick, slow the spread of flu within the community and protect those people who are at greater risk from serious illness and death. Practices have a significant opportunity to contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of the community by vaccinating as many of the patient population as possible.

A moving target

The formula for the flu vaccine is changed every year, because flu viruses continually mutate. A vaccine from one year may not give the same protection the next year. The World Health Organization and vaccine manufacturers collaborate to produce two vaccine formulas (one for the northern hemisphere, one for the southern) which are formulated to target the flu strains most active at the time.

For decades a trivalent vaccine has been used, which protects against three strains of flu. Now physicians can offer patients a quadrivalent vaccine, which gives protection against four prevalent flu strains. It’s important for individuals to get whichever type is available to them, and not decline the trivalent to wait for the quadrivalent.

The flu vaccine timeline

Dates may vary due to particular circumstances in different years.

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So why pre-order?

1 – To ensure supply

Each manufacturer estimates how many vaccine doses it needs to produce each year. The number of doses distributed each year is on an upward trend: for the 2015-16 season, manufacturers projected they would provide up to 179 million doses for the US market. True, a manufacturer can start producing more if there is a sudden increase in demand, but of course manufacturing, ordering and shipping take time. It takes at least six months to produce large quantities of flu vaccine.

Practices that pre-order vaccine get priority throughout the flu season. Their product is shipped first as it becomes available after the extensive production phase.

Vaccines are indicated for very specific age ranges so it’s important for practices to get the right fit for their patient population; high-dose formulations are available for older adults, younger adults have different options while the formulations for children and babies get very specific to their exact age.

Different manufacturers can make different forms, so pre–ordering helps a practice get the doses it wants in the delivery and formulation it needs. 
Practices can run reports on besse.com to look at their previous year’s usage – this can help them gauge the amount to pre-order. Besse offers a wide variety of vaccine options with indications that span all age range populations.

2 – To protect the population

Doctors need to have the right vaccine available to patients at the right time. The exact timing of the flu season varies each year, but outbreaks can start as early as October, with flu activity peaking between December and February, and sometimes lasting till May. It takes around two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to build up in the body and protect against flu infection, so the CDC recommends that it’s best to get vaccinated early in the fall.

Physicians know how contagious the flu is; being spread so easily, the flu can spread across populations quickly. Quite apart from the health risks, there are financial costs too: widespread flu outbreaks have a high cost in lost work productivity. Prudent practices take care to vaccinate their own staff as well as patients.

Pre-ordering helps ensure that doses will be available before the season begins, helping the public develop immunities before being exposed to new strains of the virus. It also helps ensure that there will be enough for the population, and assists manufacturers and providers in planning and budgeting.
Practices can pre-order through Flu Vaccine Central on besse.com.

3 – For price savings and to be eligible for return credit

Some manufacturers offer a discount for doses pre-ordered, as early order confirmation helps them plan production. Such discounts are usually available for pre-orders placed before April.

Additionally, manufacturers may offer a percentage of pre-ordered doses which are eligible to return for full credit at the end of the flu season, giving practices a buffer should the flu season not go as planned.
Practices can learn more about the discounts available to them each season, and the deadlines to take advantage, on Flu Vaccine Central.

With up to one in ten adults and three in ten children being infected with influenza each year, reserving flu vaccine is good for business and for public health. By pre-ordering, practices can guarantee timely vaccinations, which help us get ahead of the contagion and make sure communities stay safe and healthy.

Visit Flu Central


This article is not intended to, and does not, provide medical advice. You should consult your physician or other healthcare provider before undergoing any medical treatment.
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