Flu Shots

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Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services Will Humble talks about strategies to encourage people to get their flu shots.

Ted Simons: Flu season is almost here. That means it's time to start thinking about flu shots. Here to talk about the state's effort to get Arizonans vaccinated is Will Humble, director of the Arizona department of health services. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
Will Humble: Thanks.
Ted Simons: Different kind of focus this time around, instead of please get a shot, it's more like, do your duty and get a shot?
Will Humble: Yeah. I'm starting to talk about the influenza vaccine differently. Everybody knows it's a good idea to get the flu shot to protect yourself. But what I don't think people really truly realize is that the real community benefit for getting vaccinated is that we slow the spread in families and communities, and so to me it's really more about a social contract that you have with your community and with your family to get vaccinated. For those people reluctant to get vaccinated or think ‘I'm healthy enough, it's no big deal', think about it differently and think about how it's important to protect the family members that you love and your community, because that's really the true value of getting vaccinated.
Ted Simons: Is this one of those things where even if you aren't sick, you could still spread the virus?
Will Humble: Right. You're a pretty healthy guy, you probably will never, at least if you get the flu this year you won't get super sick, but you might spread to it your family. Or somebody else in the community who has a vulnerable medical condition. So really it's important to get vaccinated, not just for yourself, but for your community.
Ted Simons: Talk about basically a herd effect.
Will Humble: Right. The idea is if you can get folks vaccinated, especially kids are and get them up -- if we can get 80% of our kids vaccinated we could adopt level of circulating virus this winter. Big-time. Not just a little, but a big drop.
Ted Simons: I think I read somewhere, 80% of kids vaccinated means like 90% of the cases adios.
Will Humble: Right. Because they're the amplifiers of the virus. Kids have amplifying the virus, but it's important for everybody to get vaccinated.
Ted Simons: Why not mandate these flu shots for these kids?
Will Humble: It's a good question. Really everything in public health is all about cost benefit. Really. If you ultimately look at the decisions we make, it's what's the benefit for the input. And when you look at the flu vaccine, if you were to make it a mandatory flu shot, you'd be putting the burden on school nurses to do that compliance check every year in the schools. They're already overburdened and it's a vaccine that happens every year. So we make where there's a lot of school requirements for MMR and other vaccines, but it's a school readiness vaccine that nurses check and have to check once. If you were to put that extra mile and ask them to do it for influenza, you wouldn't get the real payoff at the school.
Ted Simons: This is the yearly kind of a thing, so it would --
Will Humble: It would have to be over and over again. For me it's just not worth that extra benefit. We're trying to get people to do the right thing on their own without the mandate.
Ted Simons: How do you get people to do the right thing on their own when they're concerned that if they get a flu shot, they're going to get a bad reaction?
Will Humble: Well, the basic -- let me say it this way -- there are many options now that weren't available before. Most people when they talk about that reaction they're talking about the soreness from the needle. There's so many options now. There's the nasal spray, which is good for folks from 2-49 years old. So it's a nasal mist. There's no needle.
Ted Simons: What's with 49?
Will Humble: That's all he -- they did clinical trials up to 49.
Ted Simons: An odd number. OK.
Will Humble: There's a new microneedle, a ray technology which is almost like a Band-Aid, that you can put on your skin. That vaccine is available this year. That's approved as a whole different number, from 18-64. And then there's also a new vaccine for seniors which is four times as potent as the regular seasonal flu shot. And that's for folks 65 and up. That is a needle shot. So there's all these different combinations. If you're afraid of needles, then find the nasal mist.
Ted Simons: Not just that kind of reaction, but I know folks are also concerned with the idea that I never get the flu and I never get the flu shot, so why -- I'm just asking for trouble if I go there and get a shot.
Will Humble: You know, it's just -- if it happens, it's just a coincidence. I can say that on TV. Some people just won't believe it. Our message is really clear, the data is obviously clear, that that doesn't happen. There's no link between getting the vaccine and getting sick. You could take my word for it or not, but that's what the data shows.
Ted Simons: If you're healthy as a horse, you get the vaccine, you're a healthier horse.
Will Humble: And you're healthier for your community.
Ted Simons: For the other horses.
Will Humble: That's right.
Ted Simons: Last question, there's a lot, pharmacists can can now --
Will Humble: That's the reason you why see all these signs at the pharmacies. The state legislature has pass add couple of bills that have let pharmacists give vaccinations for the flu. And that drives more traffic into those stores, which is -- that's really their incentive for giving the shot. You get the flu shot at the pharmacy but buy stuff on the way out. Physicians have been for some time becoming less and less enthusiastic about giving out the flu shot because it's a lost leader for them. They lose money giving out flu vaccine, but pharmacies make money, and that's why you're seeing them pop up. Pharmacists can actually give the vaccine now and you don't even need a prescription.
Ted Simons: And they can give the vaccine now.
Will Humble: Yeah. You can hardly drive around the valley anywhere and not see flu shots available now.
Ted Simons: Good information. Thanks for joining us.
Will Humble: Take care.

Will Humble:Director, Arizona Department of Health Services;

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