New recommendations for flu vaccines in 2010 - 2011
Everyone dreads getting the flu because of the symptoms and the cost. A recent study estimated that in the United States, annual influenza epidemics result in approximately 200,000 hospitalizations, 41,000 deaths, and 30 million outpatient visits, resulting in medical costs of $10 billion annually. According to this study, lost earnings due to illness and loss of life amounted to over $15 billion annually, and the total economic burden of annual influenza epidemics amounts to over $80 billion.*
To prevent further flu outbreaks in 2010-2011 and to help maintain costs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is recommending that everyone who is at least six months old receive the flu vaccination. This is an expanded recommendation from previous years. The annual influenza vaccination is a safe and effective preventive health action with potential benefits for all age groups.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) selected the influenza viruses for the composition of the influenza vaccine. For the 2010 - 2011 U.S. influenza season, last year's pandemic of the H1N1 virus is recommended for inclusion in the vaccine. This means there will likely be only one injection for influenza this year.
While it is recommended that everyone six months and older receive influenza vaccinations, certain people are still a higher risk for influenza complications. They include people aged 65 years and older, children younger than six months of age, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions. These people, their household and close contacts, and all healthcare personnel should continue to be a primary focus for vaccination efforts as providers and programs transition to routinely vaccinating all people six months of age and older.
Humana Pharmacy Solutions℠ will cover flu vaccines through the pharmacy benefit, in addition to medical coverage according to each member's plan. Retail pharmacies have become providers of the influenza vaccine in recent years, so pharmacy coverage allows members another avenue of access for vaccination. Commercial influenza vaccines are now covered under the wellness benefit provided by the healthcare reform law that became effective September 23, 2010. While grandfathered plans are not required to cover flu vaccine, Humana Pharmacy Solutions strongly recommends that ASO clients cover the vaccine through the pharmacy channel.
*Molinari, Ortega-Sanchez, Messonier, Thompson,Wortley, Weintraub, Bridges. The annual impact of seasonal influenza in the U.S.: Measuring disease burden and costs doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2007.03.046
Humana sent targeted communications to over 400,000 members with chronic conditions at the end of September to encourage flu vaccination and prevention.