Offering an influenza vaccination to children about to have surgery and general anaesthesia at a US children’s hospital resulted in a great increase in flu vaccinations there. In their findings presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2021 annual meeting, the researchers also posited that this raised vaccination awareness.
“The ongoing threat of a simultaneous COVID pandemic and seasonal flu epidemic makes the widespread use of flu vaccines more important than ever,” said Tyler Morrissey, MD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatric anesthesiology, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora. “Our research shows that having a standardised process for getting children vaccinated for flu while under anaesthesia during surgery provides a ‘teachable moment’ and opportunity to educate families on the importance of flu vaccination, and may be a model for other childhood vaccinations while under anaesthesia, including the COVID vaccine.”
Epidemics of seasonal flu occur annually. Although the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive a yearly flu vaccine, during the 2019-20 flu season, the authors noted that vaccination rates were less than 50% for adults and 60% for children.
In the study, the authors hypothesised that the perioperative period when patients are undergoing anaesthesia for surgery would be a ‘teachable moment’ for flu vaccination, which they defined as an event motivating individuals to spontaneously adopt risk-reducing health behaviours.
In October 2020, a standardised ‘Best Practice Alert’ process was implemented to actively offer flu vaccinations to all paediatric patients having general anaesthesia at the hospital In the preanaesthetic area, a care team member received a computer alert then determined if the child was eligible, discussed vaccination benefits and obtained parental consent for the vaccine. The vaccine was then administered in the operating room (OR) after the induction of general anaesthesia. Prior to the 2020-21 season, flu vaccinations under anaesthesia were only offered upon patient or family request.
The researchers found the number of children receiving perioperative flu vaccinations increased by 3500% after implementation of the institution’s standardised protocol, compared to the previous year. During the 2019-20 flu season, only 30 perioperative vaccines were administered. Prior to the intervention during the 2020-21 flu season, only 30 vaccines were given over a six-week period (1 Sept.–16 Oct.). However, after the intervention that same season, 1063 flu vaccines were administered over a 25-week period (16 Oct.–31 March), with no reported vaccine-related complications.
“We’re super encouraged to see so many parents agree to have their children vaccinated for flu while undergoing anaesthesia,” said Dr. Morrissey. “The CDC has recommended that flu vaccination be offered to children 6 months of age and older at every health care seeking opportunity. As physicians on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, this is another great opportunity for our specialty to make a significant impact on public health.”