Cold and flu season is imminent, and it’s more important than ever for employers to promote a proactive, preventive approach to employee health. Routine vaccinations, including the influenza vaccine, better known as the flu shot, are an essential preventive action for children, adolescents, and adults, that should not be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC recommends getting the flu shot by the end of October, especially for those who are high risk.
Despite how common flu is in the United States, only 45 percent of adults got a flu shot in 2018, according to the CDC. In normal years, the U.S. loses tens of thousands of American lives to flu, and public health experts have become increasingly concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on the upcoming flu season, as COVID-19 and flu are both respiratory illness that share many symptoms. As an employer, there are steps you can take to encourage your employees to get their flu vaccine and drive home the importance of keeping themselves healthy this flu season.
How to Prepare for the 2020 Flu Season
The most significant thing employers can do to encourage their workers to get a flu shot is to make getting one easy. Employer-sponsored flu shots not only make it convenient for employees, but also promote a culture of wellness and help reduce unnecessary medical visits or hospitalizations.
Meet employees where they are by offering a variety of options to get their vaccine, whether your population is on campus or working remotely.
- For workers on campus: Employers can hold in-person flu vaccination events at their onsite or nearsite center, or at their onsite pharmacy. At an onsite flu vaccination event, vaccines can be administered by the onsite or nearsite provider team via drive-thru, curbside, or in a community space.
- For remote employees: Retail vouchers are a convenient solution that allow them to receive their vaccine close to home. Depending on the geography of your population, a combination of options can help you reach as many people as possible.
Assess Your Options
When designing a worksite flu vaccination solution, make sure to keep your employees’ schedules in mind. Factory line workers may prefer times that reduce disruption, while larger, white-collar companies may opt to assign departments their own vaccination day over the course of a week to control crowds. These small considerations can make a big difference in the efficiency of the option you choose, and result is a higher number of employees getting their vaccine!
- Walk-in/Scheduled: These walk-in or scheduled visits offer convenience for members and dependents. To promote safety and physical distancing in the workplace, employers can also offer drive-up or curbside vaccinations instead of entering the onsite or nearsite health center. If choosing a drive-up option, use a space that enables smooth traffic flow and make sure to have cones, tents, and signage set up, as well as a backup plan for inclement weather.
- Event: Hosting an onsite flu vaccination event is a great complementary alternative to in-person vaccinations. Holding an event on campus or nearby the office offers flexibility, drives engagement, and makes it possible for the health center team to vaccinate more people in a shorter amount of time. If choosing to hold a flu shot event, employers should evaluate locations that are easily accessible for both members and dependents.
On-campus events also increase engagement between members and providers by offering an opportunity for providers to build and strengthen relationships with their members. Regardless of the location, remember to encourage physical distancing and mask wearing to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission during the event. Any employees who have COVID-19 symptoms should be discouraged from attending your event.
If you have a primarily remote workforce, you may consider retail vouchers. This approach makes it convenient for remote members to get vaccinated, as many retail pharmacies are open later in the evening or even 24 hours.
The process is simple: Eligible populations receive a voucher via email and present it at to their closest retail pharmacy location to receive the flu shot. Vouchers are also valuable for dependents as retail pharmacies are located throughout the community, closer to where they live, work, and play.
Educate and Inform
Once you solidify the best option(s) for your population, it’s important to provide informational resources about additional steps employees can take to protect themselves against the cold, flu, and other viruses, including COVID-19. It’s also an opportunity to educate your workers on the common cold and flu symptoms and how they’re different from the coronavirus.
At Premise, our member engagement teams support clients by developing educational resources, like the chart below, to help keep populations safe and informed.
While there are some similarities in the symptoms, there is one significant difference – the flu has a vaccine and promoting the vaccine as a preventive measure should be top priority.
While we continue to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, do not delay annual vaccinations, including the flu shot. By offering convenient options for your employees and their families, you can help keep your workforces safe and healthy.
To learn more and discuss the best approach to flu vaccinations for your organization, click here.