Pediatric Patients Receiving Flu Vaccine
Children, especially those younger than 5 years, are at higher risk for serious influenza (“flu”)-related complications. The flu vaccine offers the best defense against getting the flu and spreading it to others. Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions.
The immunization measures were developed as a result of recommendations from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit organization, which accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. These measures track influenza immunization rates for patients prior to discharge.
Why is it important?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated every flu season for the best protection against influenza (‘the flu”). Each year, millions of children get sick with flu; thousands of children are hospitalized, and some children die from flu.
While flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, flu activity peaks between December and February. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against flu virus infection, it is best that people get vaccinated so they are protected before flu begins spreading in their community.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the flu viruses that research shows will likely be most common during the upcoming season. A 2014 study* showed that flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission by 74% during flu seasons from 2010-2012.
Children are at greater risk for flu-related complications if they have the following conditions:
- Chronic lung conditions like asthma or cystic fibrosis
- Neurological disorders like seizures
- Heart disease
- Blood disorders like sickle cell disease
- Endocrine disorders like diabetes
- Kidney disorders
- Metabolic disorders
- Weakened immune system
- Receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- Children younger than 5 years
Johns Hopkins Medicine has geared their health system to track influenza vaccines and flag patients who have not received their flu vaccine. Once patients are admitted, the electronic system will indicate patients that need vaccines and make sure they receive them prior to departure.
For the safety of our patients, trainees, staff, faculty, physicians, and students, a mandatory flu vaccination policy is in effect across Johns Hopkins Medicine. Implemented in 2012, this program is in line with a national movement to increase immunization rates among health care workers.
Under the Johns Hopkins Medicine Influenza Vaccination Policy, every staff and faculty member, resident, postdoctoral fellow, medical student, and volunteer who works with patients or works in a patient care area must receive a flu vaccination.
Carrie Tyler, R.N., B.S.N.
Nurse Clinician III
Rubenstein Child Health Building, Harriet Lane Clinic and Pediatric Specialty Clinics
The Johns Hopkins Hospital
“At The Johns Hopkins Hospital, we always check to see if our patients are up to date with their vaccines, including their annual flu shot. This ensures that we offer the flu vaccine to all our patients who need it.
Children and teenagers are constantly exposed to germs. The flu vaccine is the best way to protect them and people they come into contact with who are more vulnerable to a serious flu illness, such as the immunocompromised, babies and the elderly.
We have found great success in vaccinating our patients, in large part because nurses can independently screen and give flu vaccines. We are able to be proactive with families and have found that educating parents has also been key to improving our immunization rates. Many parents have misperceptions about flu shots, and we give them the information they need in order to make a choice about having their children and other family members vaccinated. When we see a decline in the number of influenza cases during flu season, we know our efforts are working.“
Johns Hopkins Medicine encourages patients and families to get the flu vaccination. The flu vaccine is the most effective way to protect against the flu and its potential complications. Patients and visitors should wash their hands often—including before eating, after using the restroom, and after touching any surface in the hospital room—cover coughs and sneezes, and avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent germ transmission.
Visitors should also follow any additional infection control measures put in place by the health care team, such as wearing an isolation gown.
Communicating with Your Health Care Team
Hospital stays and medical treatments can be stressful for young patients and families. Communication can be challenging, and it may be difficult to know what questions to ask your health care team. Many resources are available to empower patients to effectively communicate questions and concerns with their doctors, leading to better, safer health care.
The organization’s quality and safety performance may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We would urge patients to consider more recent performance in combination with historical performance. Patients may benefit from discussing with their healthcare provider the disruptions COVID-19 may have caused on quality and safety of care.