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Statement by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.,
on preparations for the upcoming flu season and vaccinations.

Read the Statement

Vaccinations are proven to be a vital aspect of maintained health. They protect us from diseases that are serious and sometimes deadly.  Many patients and healthcare staff may wonder why it is that they have to receive vaccines to prevent diseases, and having questions about the unknown is normal. Patients who receive hemodialysis have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a high-risk population for which vaccination is recommended. To assist you in making an informed decision, The Renal Network is happy to provide resources to answer questions that are commonly asked.

Hepatitis B (HBV) is a disease that starts as a virus (spread by blood or bodily fluids) that can lead to severe Liver damage. Hemodialysis patients are at greater risk for contracting HBV through contact with blood contaminated devices, equipment and supplies, environmental surfaces, and/or direct contact with dialysis facility personnel and infected patients.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria and can lead to potentially deadly infections like Pneumonia (lung infection), Meningitis (brain and spinal cord inflammation), or Bacteremia (blood infection that can lead to sepsis). One of the dangerous aspects of Pneumococcal disease is that there are people who carry and spread the causal bacteria that never get sick or know that they have the germs; they are called “carriers”. These germs are spread via respiratory secretion droplets in the air from a person sneezing, coughing, or talking.

Influenza (Flu) virus is a highly contagious condition that spikes during the fall/winter of every year. It can be easily transmitted via microscopic droplets in the air from an infected person’s cough, sneeze, or simply talking. The virus can lead to potentially deadly conditions, such as pneumonia (lung infection), inflammation of the heart or brain, or even Sepsis (a deadly blood infection). Being in close proximity of others during flu season increases the risk of exposure.

At the time of admission to an outpatient dialysis unit each patient should be assessed for current vaccination status for Hepatitis B, Pneumococcal Pneumonia and Influenza (if applicable) and then offered accordingly.  At times, patients refuse vaccination potentially due to fear of contracting the disease and/or fear of needles.

This refusal of the vaccines:

  • Places them at risk for contracting HBV infection
  • Places them at risk for becoming a chronic carrier of HBV which could lead to hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis of the liver
  • Increases their chances of developing pneumococcal disease which includes pneumonia, bacteremia and meningitis.
  • Increases their chances of contracting the flu and possibly infecting family members, friends, and fellow patients within the dialysis clinic.

Although the rates of confirmed preventable diseases are low, as reported by the CDC, this should not lead to vaccination complacency; particularly in the population of hemodialysis patients who are immunocompromised at a higher degree than the general public.  This greater potential exposure to Hepatitis B, Pneumococcal Pneumonia, and Influenza is the reason for developing effective interventions for increasing vaccination rates in this targeted population.  Patients need to receive information and education on vaccines in order to fully understand their importance.

Network Resources

This educational resource poster entitled Hepatitis B Vaccine Series is a interactive, baseball-themed way for outpatient dialysis facilities to engage the patient care team in the current vaccination rates within the clinic. The poster (and corresponding baseball player cutout) is intended for clinic staff to move the baseball player around the baseball diamond with reference to the percentage of patients vaccinated. For example, if the clinic has 20% of its patients vaccinated then your baseball player would stand just short of 1st base. That way everyone within the clinic can celebrate any and all improvements and victories large and small.

This educational resource is printed in the form of wallet cards (cardstock) entitled Hepatitis B Vaccine Series. It has a baseball theme similar to the clinic staff poster. The wallet or pocket card is intended to be given out to patients. There are slots on one side that allow the patients to keep track of the dates that they received each shot in the series for Hepatitis B. This is intended to engage the patients in their own healthcare and empower them to it a ‘home run’ with the Hepatitis B Vaccination.

Hepatitis B is a serious infection that affects the liver. People who are at risk for Hepatitis B infection should be vaccinated. Dialysis patients and staff are at greater risk than the normal population due to their greater chance of exposure to blood. This educational resource provides information about complications of liver infection and the importance of getting the vaccine.

The D-AFIX Guidebook was adapted by staff members from The Renal Network (ESRD Network 10) and Heartland Kidney Network (ESRD Network 12) for use by dialysis facilities for assessing vaccination practices in dialysis facilities. The Facility Staff Guidebook version provides details to the dialysis facility on how the D-AFIX model can be adapted for facility use in increasing vaccination rates for the dialysis population.

General Vaccination Resources

Other Links