Givving flu shots to hospitalized patients

September 24, 2010

Bronson Methodist Hospital is begining a program this week to offer influenza immunizations to patients in the hospital. Bronson has done this for many years and it has become a standard policy for most hospitals in the US. Some agencies that look at the quality of medical care even grade hospitals on how successfully they immunize inpatients.

Immunizing hospital patients during the influenza season is a brilliant idea for several reasons. Patients in the hospital typically have time for it so they don’t have to make an extra appointment and drive somewhere to get their immunization. Nurses typically give patients many other drugs for their primary disease, so one more is not much extra work. Patients who are in the hospital are typically sick with some other disease like heart or lung problems, and they are at high risk for influenza already. And including the cost of the vaccine in a hospital stay avoids the work of submitting another bill to your insurance. Studies show that immunizing hospital patients during the influenza season prevents readmission for influenza later and saves a lot of money.

Hospitals typically give only the intramuscular shots to inpatients because the intranasal mist vaccine is not approved by the FDA for patients who are sick.

Some people still question whether you should give a vaccine to a person who is in the hospital for another disease or condition. Other than treatments to suppress a patient’s immune system, no diseases or treatments make a patient inelligible for or interfere with the response of a patient to a vaccine. You can give a patient with pneumonia a flu shot. The shot will not harm the patient and the vaccine will work pefectly well in that patient after they recover and go home.

If you or someone you know is going into a hospital for any reason between September and April and you have not had your flu shot yet, go ahead and let your nurse give you one while you are there.

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