The H1N1 pandemic has contributed to more than 200 U.S. deaths and the Center for Disease Control reports more than 37,000 probable or confirmed cases nationwide, which highlights the need for increased education for adult immunizations.
The H1N1 vaccination is expected to be available this fall and has attracted the attention of inpatient and outpatient physicians alike, says hospitalist and infectious-disease specialist John J. Ross, MD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Dr. Ross expects a spike in adult vaccinations similar to the increase witnessed after the Sept. 11 attacks. "You saw an increase in vaccinations because of increased panic," he says. "I expect that to be the same this fall with the introduction of the swine flu shot.”
The American College of Physicians (ACP) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) also express the need for heightened awareness. The medical groups recently issued a joint statement calling for a "renewed and stronger" emphasis on adult vaccinations. The statement, also supported by SHM, emphasizes an increase in patient education and documentation. It suggests hospital workers review and update their own immunizations, with particular attention to annual influenza immunizations.
Though most vaccinations are administered in the outpatient setting, hospitalists are required to update their patients’ vaccination status. "While hospitalists are doing a good job of handling pneumonia and influenza vaccinations, they could do a better job of handling some of the less common disease vaccinations,” says Ross.
Dr. Ross says hospitalists should remain knowledgeable in all of the immunization categories, a complete list of which is available at the CDC Web site. "The more knowledgeable the hospitalist is on vaccinations, the more they can educate their patients," he says.