It is more important than ever to get the flu vaccine this year. The vaccine is recommended for people aged 6 months and older with few exceptions. Flu symptoms including fever, chills, and cough are the same as those due to illness caused by COVID-19. This similarity in presentation is confusing and could lead to a strain on the healthcare system if patients presenting both with influenza and COVID-19 respiratory illness seek care.
The best way to protect our communities is by getting the flu vaccine, and as a result many companies are taking action to promote flu shots and keep employees healthy during this crucial time.
Key issues for this year’s flu vaccine:
September-October is considered the best time to get a flu vaccine. However, as long as the flu is circulating, getting a vaccine can reduce the risk of infection and vaccines will be available as late into the flu season as January.
A greater supply of influenza vaccinations are being produced for the 2020/1 flu season due to the importance of flu vaccinations during the coronavirus pandemic. Thus, public health officials are not anticipating shortages.
What this means for employers:
Employers can play a significant role in supporting vaccine education and adoption. Here are some strategies Castlight employers are using to increase vaccination rates within their population:
- Education: Employers are launching seasonal campaigns about the safety and importance of vaccines. This article is a helpful resource for explaining why it’s crucial to get a flu shot this year, when to get it, and what to expect.
- Incentive programs for employees: Castlight customers are not requiring flu vaccinations as a condition of employment; however, some employers are incentivizing employees through Castlight and other avenues to get the flu vaccine.
- Investment in alternative distribution plans due to COVID-19: Many customers who traditionally distributed flu shots onsite (either through onsite clinics or health fairs), are providing employees with some of these alternatives for convenient access to flu shots:
- Vouchers: Employers are providing employees vouchers to get flu shots at large retail pharmacy partners
- Drive-thru events: Employers are setting up drive-thru vaccination events that allow for social distancing while providing the vaccination
Implications for a COVID-19 vaccine:
In a recent poll, 30% of US adults would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free. Employers will play a pivotal role in combating vaccination hesitancy when a safe and effective vaccine becomes available.
Employer-run flu vaccine promotions, educational campaigns, and incentives can be the foundation for a COVID-19 promotional program.
COVID-19 vaccinations are likely to be delivered through the same distribution point as the flu vaccine. Some employers are already preparing to have their onsite clinics serve as COVID-19 vaccine vaccine distribution sites.
A timeline for general availability of a COVID-19 vaccine is, as yet, uncertain. There are, however, steps employers can take to prepare. Employers can identify employees who may be eligible for early rounds of the vaccine (e.g., essential workers), determine if their onsite clinics may qualify as distribution sites, and prepare communication and education campaigns.