Registered nurses and medical assistants are the healthcare professionals most commonly administering immunizations. There are a few states that do not allow medical assistants to administer injections, so it is important to check state statutes. Many medical practices require that medical assistants be certified or registered and have graduated from an accredited medical assisting program to administer immunizations or any type of injections.
Administering immunizations correctly is a critical part of the healthcare professional's job. The flu vaccine is required to be administered either intramuscularly (IM), intradermally (in the case of Fluzone intradermal) or intranasally (in the case of nasal flu vaccine). Following the most current influenza vaccine policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is another important factor. It is important that healthcare professionals are knowledgeable and have been well-trained prior to administering immunizations. If immunizations are given improperly, the patient may not develop immunity.
Just prior to the delivery of flu vaccine to the office is a great time to freshen knowledge and skills on vaccine administration and safety. Remember the following:
Review the Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) for the current flu vaccine season
Review dosage recommendations, administration requirements and package inserts for the different flu vaccines
Review IM placement locations
On the thigh (vastus lateralis is the preferred muscle)—the preferred spot for infants and young children
Arm (Deltoid muscle)—older children and adults
Choose the right needle size
Usual choices in the pediatric setting are 5/8", 1", and 1 & 1/2"; ensure the needle length is sufficient to administer vaccine in the muscle mass, that's the goal. You don't want to merely hit deep into subcutaneous (SQ) tissue.
For infants up to age 1 year, a 1" needle is usually used in the vastus lateralis muscle of the upper thigh. Examine the 6-month child well; sometimes a 5/8" needle may be appropriate. The appropriate needle length, especially in infants, is very much patient dependent.
For toddlers and older children, needle length will vary based on injection site (vastus lateralis or deltoid) and weight of the patient (1" – 1.5").
For Injectable Flu vaccine
For Nasal Flu vaccine
For Intradermal Flu Vaccine (see administration guide)
Fluzone Intradermal vaccine is given in the upper arm—the same spot you would administer an IM vaccine
First shake the vial
Insert the needle perpendicular to the skin above the deltoid
Push the plunger to inject (do not aspirate)
Then remove the needle and dispose
Review Infection Control & Quality Control
Remind staff to wash hands prior to vaccine preparation and between each patient. Handwashing is the most important way to prevent the spread of infection. Handwashing is especially important during a busy flu-shot clinic when harried staff may be likely to forget.
Gloves should be worn if there is a likelihood that the person administering the vaccine might come into contact with body fluids or the person has open sores or cuts on the hands.
Always check expiration dates before drawing up the vaccine.
Document the vaccine administered in the patients chart accurately. See the Liability and Risk Management section of this document for details.
Give each patient the appropriate VIS for the current flu vaccine season before the vaccine is administered.
Tools and Resources
Immunization Action Coalition
Vaccine Administration e-Learn
The CDC offers Vaccine Administration e-Learn, a free, interactive, online educational program that serves as a useful introductory course or a great refresher on vaccine administration.
Vaccine Administration Videos
The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention has developed videos that demonstrate appropriate vaccine administration techniques, as part of the One and Only Campaign. The videos include, "Check Your Steps! Make Every Injection Safe," "Managing Patient Safety, One Injection at a Time," and "Safe Injection Practices - How to Do It Right."
2019 Pink Book Webinars
This online series of 15 webinars provides an overview of the principles of vaccination, general recommendations, immunization strategies for providers, and specific information about vaccine-preventable diseases and the vaccines that prevent them. Each one-hour webinar explores a chapter from the 13th edition of “Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases,” also known widely as “The Pink Book.”