Join ATLANTIC HEALTH PARTNERS for the Lowest Vaccine Prices!
Atlantic offers our members the lowest prices for immunizations and can help you best prepare for flu season with an extensive range of Sanofi’s Fluzone products. Providing flu and other recommended vaccines may help strengthen the patient relationship and better maintain your office as the source for all immunizations and other preventive services.
In summary, Atlantic provides our members:
- Lowest prices for Sanofi and Merck vaccines
- Lowest prices for Sanofi’s Fluzone and MedImmune’s Flumist
- Vaccine reimbursement support and advocacy
- Medicare Part D Program so you can provide Shingles and Pertussis vaccines to seniors
We encourage you to contact Cindy or Jeff at 800-741-2044 or email@example.com to see how Atlantic Health Partners can benefit your practice.
Breaking Down the Flu Vaccine’s Effectiveness
After last year’s flu vaccine missed the mark, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicted that this year’s vaccine should offer more protection. And so far, they’ve been right.
Health officials recently reported that this year’s flu season has been mild, and the vaccine has been more effective. The CDC’s preliminary figures show that the overall effectiveness of the 2015 annual vaccine is 59 percent, making it the second most effective annual flu vaccine since records began a decade ago.
Each year, the flu vaccine varies in effectiveness because strains of the virus mutate. To combat the virus, a new vaccine is developed annually to match the strains that are predicted to thrive, but developing the vaccine is a lengthy process. Because strains of the virus can change, predicting which strain will dominate is challenging. As a result, protection garnered from the vaccine can fluctuate. Over the past decade, CDC records report levels of effectiveness as low as 10 percent and as high as 60 percent.
While efficacy varies, the annual flu vaccine is still the best preventive method to avoid and reduce severity of the flu. The CDC recommends the annual vaccine for everyone aged six months and older, as well as the high-dose flu vaccine for seniors above the age of 65.
Despite these recommendations, only half of all Americans get the flu vaccine each year. According to CDC estimates, by the end of this flu season, only 44 percent of adults and 59 percent of children will have received a flu shot. Many individuals hold the misguided belief that because vaccine effectiveness varies, the vaccine is not necessary. In fact, a national poll by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital found that 35 percent of parents surveyed felt the flu vaccine was less important than other childhood vaccines, which isn’t true.
Contracting the flu can be just as dangerous as other vaccine-preventable diseases. Flu complications send more than 200,000 Americans on average to the hospital annually, and death rates linked to the flu can be as high as 49,000 in a single year.
The varying degree of each year’s vaccine efficacy is no excuse for avoiding an annual flu shot. Regardless of effectiveness, the flu vaccine remains the best method to protect and reduce severity of the virus. Whether it’s a mild season like this year’s or more severe like last year’s, to help individuals avoid the unwanted illness, we must continue to advocate for the annual flu shot.
Ending the Whooping Cough News Cycle
The bacterial infection, pertussis, kept largely under control in recent decades by vaccination is again making headlines. Pertussis, known commonly as whooping cough, is on the rise. From 2013 to 2014, total cases reported increased 15 percent, and almost daily new outbreaks are reported in the news here in the United States and abroad. Most striking to many was a video posted by an Australian mother of her four-month-old battling the disease. The video went viral and elicited a mass response as many watched the child’s suffering and the mother’s exhausted efforts to comfort her infant son.
While upsetting, this new bloom of cases is serving as a wake-up call to clinicians and caregivers as well as the general public that we must be vigilant in preventing the spread of this highly contagious and deadly respiratory disease.
Pertussis causes violent coughing fits that can inhibit breathing, eating, drinking or sleeping, and may even lead to more serious complications. And, it is a tough disease to fight once an outbreak begins. In its earliest stage, the first couple of weeks after contraction, the symptoms closely resemble the cold virus – runny nose, mild fever and a mild, occasional cough. This is also when pertussis is most contagious. Almost everyone who is not vaccinated will get sick if exposed to the infection.
To gain immunity, whooping cough (bordetela pertussis) requires a strict schedule of vaccinations starting with an initial dose of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine) when a child is just two months old. That initial dose of DTaP is followed by four additional shots at ages four, six, 18 months and between four and six years of age, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines. A booster (Tdap) should then be administered to adolescents typically around age 11. It is also recommended for adults, particularly parents, grandparents and other individuals who are around young children, to receive the vaccine. Additionally, the CDC urges expectant mothers to receive a dose of Tdap during each pregnancy, between the 27th and 36th weeks.
The continued emphasis for adults, particularly new mothers, to be vaccinated is to protect those most vulnerable. The vast majority of new cases of pertussis are with newborns and infants, many contracting the disease before they reach a safe age for their first vaccination. In fact, 241 of the total 277 pertussis-related deaths between 2000 and 2014 were babies younger than three months of age. Thus, the great importance must be placed on ensuring all caregivers and relatives are up-to-date with their immunizations.
Compounding our need to not let our guard down in fighting pertussis is a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in November 2015. The Danish researchers’ observational study identified 4,700 children who contracted pertussis from 1978 to 2011. When compared to 47,000 children in a general population group, the pertussis-infected group had a 70% greater frequency of developing epilepsy by age 10. While the study does not make a direct causal link between childhood pertussis infection and developing epilepsy, it does warrant our attention and further research, especially on long-term effects of the seizures caused by pertussis.
As the medical and clinical communities continue their work to provide vaccines with longer efficacy, patients and healthcare providers must work together to bridge any gaps in our defenses against pertussis. Let’s put an end to the whooping cough headlines.
No Vaccine, No Patient Care
In recent years, the anti-vaccine movement has increased in the United States. Despite the medical community’s overwhelming pro-vaccine stance, a small, but vocal group of parents have used sensational stories, questionable studies, and fervent beliefs to convince themselves and others from vaccinating their children. As a result, physicians today are often faced with a difficult decision: Do they continue to care for unvaccinated patients, and put other patients at risk, or do they choose to dismiss these patients?
This past year, a new study appearing in Pediatrics aimed to answer the question of how doctors are handling the decision. The study surveyed 534 pediatricians and family physicians from June to October 2012. Overall, the majority of respondents (83 percent) reported that they have at least 1 percent of families refuse vaccines in a typical month. The survey also found that one in five pediatricians said they “often or always” dismissed these families.
Although, 20 percent of the pediatricians said they would dismiss patients who are not vaccinated, the results varied based on location and practice ownership. For instance, in states that do not allow philosophical exemptions to vaccines, the proportion of physicians who reported they dismissed patients was four times higher than in states where philosophical exemptions were allowed. Only 9 percent of pediatricians reported they dismissed patients in the states where philosophical exemptions are allowed. Additionally, pediatricians in private practices were five times more likely to dismiss families who refused vaccines.
From the survey, it’s clear that government and organization policy plays a large role in how physicians choose to handle the decision on vaccinations, but what the results neglect to show is how difficult the choice actually is. Vaccine expert and chief of the division of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Paul Offit, acknowledged how pediatricians are in a “tough spot.” They follow an oath to care for every patient, but they also have to look out for the collective good of all their patients. By caring for unvaccinated children, particularly in areas where herd immunity levels are low, they put other patients in danger. Their pediatric waiting room, full of newborns and patients unable to receive vaccines for health reasons, essentially becomes a danger zone. Many providers also feel that if they accept unvaccinated patients, they are sending a weak message about the importance of vaccines.
Whether a pediatrician chooses to continue to treat an unvaccinated patient or not, communication is essential to the equation. First, physicians must effectively communicate the value of vaccines to make a strong recommendation. By listening, establishing trust and being assertive, physicians are more likely to dispel any fears and convince families to vaccinate. If families still choose not to vaccinate, physicians must communicate in a clear manner their policy on how they handle unvaccinated patients. If they choose to dismiss the patient, the policy should be cited and the specific reason and rationale for their dismissal articulated. And, if physicians continue to treat unvaccinated patients, protocols should be established and communicated on how families should seek care if their child presents with symptoms from vaccine-preventable diseases, including whopping cough and measles.
The answer of how to handle treating unvaccinated patients is certainly not an easy one. In the end, it comes down to the discretion of the individual physician and their colleagues, but regardless of the decision, effective communication is a critical component. Ultimately, providers should advocate for the important role of vaccines in healthcare and make their position known to patients.
Turning the Tide on Adult Vaccination Rates
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set their sights on improved vaccination rates by 2020 as part of a far-reaching campaign “Healthy People 2020.” Yet, early metrics confirmed immunizations among adults are lagging behind schedule. As a result, the National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO) proposed a five-year plan to turn the tide. Read more online.
The Best Bet: A Flu Vaccine
Flu season, the time of year when the flu epidemic spreads easily and infects many, is officially here. Each year, between 5-20 percent of the population is infected and more than 200,000 on average are hospitalized with flu-related complications. While infection is common and symptoms typically the same, the outlook of each flu season is hard to forecast.
Flu viruses are constantly changing and mutating. As a result, the time, length, and severity of the flu range each season and across different parts of the country. Additionally, the effectiveness of our best protection, the flu vaccine, can vary.
For example, last year’s vaccine was evidence of the viruses’ unpredictable nature. Vaccines are developed based on what forms of the virus are anticipated to be prevalent. Last year, one of the strains of viruses mutated. The predominant strain of influenza A, called H3N2, was not covered by the vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe this year’s flu vaccine will be a better match based on early tests of the viruses circulating and those included in the vaccine. All versions of this year’s vaccine will protect against three viruses: two influenza A viruses, including H3N2 which was not in last year’s vaccine, and one influenza B virus. The quadrivalent vaccine will protect against an additional B virus. For adults older than 65, there is also a high-dose trivalent flu shot, which better protects those most at risk with additional antigen to prompt a stronger immune response.
Because the flu viruses mutate, flu vaccines have never provided full immunity from infection, but the flu vaccine remains our leading defense. The flu can be mild in some cases, but other times can result in severe illness and can be life-threatening. Over the course of 31 years, there has been as low as 3,000 to as high as 49,000 flu-associated deaths, depending on the severity of the season. Flu vaccines not only help prevent individuals from falling ill, but also help regulate the immune system preventing those who received the vaccine from suffering from a more sever case of the flu.
While the forecast of this year’s flu remains to be seen, there is no question that the vaccine is the best bet to protect against the spread of illness. With flu season upon us, now is the time to advocate patients receive their yearly flu shot to limit their odds of infection.
The Prepared Adventurer
More than 60 million Americans travel abroad each year. And yet, many individuals forget to do one of the most important things for their trip: check their vaccine schedule and get additional immunizations.
Of the 60 million American travelers, many visit industrialized countries where the risk of exposure to disease is no greater than it is here in the U.S. But, a number of travelers visit areas with dangerous infectious diseases that are extremely rare in the U.S. Travel vaccines should be taken to ensure good health, both while on the trip and upon return.
The CDC categorizes travel vaccines into three categories. Routine vaccinations include all pediatric and adult vaccines recommended to protect individuals here in the U.S. Recommended immunizations include vaccines that could protect against diseases that are present in other countries, but are not typically covered by routine vaccinations. These vary by country, but a complete list is available through the CDC. Finally, there are required immunizations. These vaccines are as important as your passport for entry into specific countries. The International Health Regulations currently only requires two vaccines: the yellow fever vaccine for travel to parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South America and the meningococcal vaccination for travel to Saudi Arabia during the annual Hajj.
Most international travelers are aware of the required immunizations. However, many travelers forget to check that their routine vaccinations are updated and fail to receive vaccinations to prevent region-specific infectious diseases. Further, many travelers don’t realize that vaccines need to be given four to six weeks ahead of travel, and in some cases require multiple doses, to ensure effectiveness.
Physicians can serve as an educator and point of contact for their patients traveling abroad. By implementing three simple, but meaningful tactics, physicians can help their patients truly be prepared for their adventure:
- Ask – When conducting a routine visit, physicians can help ensure future health by recommending routine vaccinations and asking whether they have any trips planned for the next 12 months. By engaging in a dialogue, patients will be more likely to make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccination schedule and better prepared for any overseas travel.
- Consult – Some vaccines recommended for international travel are uncommon in the U.S.; the CDC is a valuable resource to help you determine the appropriate vaccinations for your patients. They provide a full, updated list of the recommended vaccines for every region across the world. The CDC can also help provide government approved travel clinics for patient referrals.
- Partner – Join a vaccine buying group for access to favorably priced travel vaccines. Most insurance companies do not provide coverage for travel vaccines, and prices of these vaccines can cost as much as $150 or more per dose, depending on the disease. By partnering with a vaccine buying group, you can receive the lowest pricing for vaccines to benefit both your practice and the patient.
So, the next time your patient proudly mentions an upcoming trip overseas, be sure to discuss the importance of being up-to-date on their standard vaccines as well as review additional immunizations that may be required.
Leveraging Vaccines: The Important Questions to Ask
For physician practices, the nature of business is changing. More patients are seeking care at alternative facilities, and more reimbursement for patients’ care is tied to performance metrics. As practices aim to remain profitable today, every penny counts. That’s where vaccine buying groups can assist.
Vaccine buying groups offer favorable pricing helping your practice or organization save money on necessary immunizations for your patients. In return for primarily using vaccines produced by contracted manufacturers, healthcare organizations gain access to guaranteed low prices and additional promotions. Further, member practices can typically make smaller purchases and still benefit from lower pricing, thus improving cash flow and storage needs. As you assess if a vaccine buying group is right for you, consider the following questions:
Can I reduce my practice’s time and resources spent on ordering vaccines so that maximum discounts are still achieved? Does the program eliminate the need to order many vaccines at the same time to achieve best pricing?
Using a vaccine buying group, providers gain access to the lowest available contracted price. No longer do they have to worry about ordering in large quantities or constantly negotiating on price. Vaccine buying groups offer organizations the ability to order in a manner that best meets its needs at pre-established prices. Some vaccine buying groups even support members with reimbursement disputes and other situations that otherwise would distract you from running your practice.
Is there a cost to participate? What is the length of the contract commitment? Do all participants have the same terms?
Most vaccine buying groups do not require a fee for membership, but do require a participation agreement. The agreement details the purchasing terms, which typically give access to reduced pricing as long as the organization purchases from the partner manufacturers.
What are the value-added services that are provided?
Beyond gaining access to preferred pricing, some vaccine buying groups offer added services and resources to member practices. This support varies widely by program and you should ask for details before deciding which buying group is right for your team. These services may include reimbursement support along with timely updates on new products, product promotions, coding, and inventory management assistance. Members may also receive discounted pricing for other medical and office supplies through their vaccine buying group.
As your organization continues to provide quality care to patients, but yet must be mindful of the costs, refocusing your supply management practices for vaccines may deliver a meaningful ROI.