Last year, flu vaccinations spiked along with worldwide concern about COVID-19. In fact, according to Evernorth Research Institute data, 52 percent more Americans got flu shots in 2020 than in 2019.
But flu season is here again and flu shot numbers have fallen sharply and are back to pre-pandemic (2019) levels, especially among children. So far, vaccination claims for the 2021-2022 flu season show a downward trend. Compared to last year, flu vaccinations dropped by 43 percent in September and 18 percent in October.
As the pandemic continues, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself and your members from preventable illnesses. Below is a brief rundown on ways plan sponsors can make it easy for members to get a flu shot.
Why get a flu shot?
- The flu vaccine is the best way to lower the chance of getting the flu. According to the CDC, flu vaccination prevents millions of illnesses and doctor visits each year.
- People who do get sick are less likely to get seriously ill if they’ve had their annual flu shot. The CDC urges everyone over the age of 6 months to get vaccinated.
- Flu can worsen some chronic medical conditions – even if they’re well managed – leading to hospitalization or even death. The CDC warns anyone at high risk for severe complications to make the flu vaccine a priority.
- Flu vaccination also keeps people who are sick with flu from flooding into hospitals already burdened by COVID-19. Across the country, some intensive care units (ICUs) are overflowing with COVID-19 patients, leaving less space for people sick with flu.
Encourage flu vaccinations
Plan sponsors can help protect members and reduce absenteeism by offering quick and convenient options for getting a flu shot. Keeping people healthy prevents the spread of illness, which improves productivity. Make it easy for members to get vaccinated by:
- Setting up onsite pop-up clinics
- Helping members get the flu vaccine at a pharmacy or health care provider of their choice
- Sponsoring a flu clinic at a local pharmacy
- Getting shots into arms before the flu season really takes hold. It takes about two weeks after receiving a vaccine to be protected against the flu.
Combine a flu shot with the COVID-19 vaccine or booster
Health experts worry that this year more people will skip their flu shot than last year, further straining the health care system. What’s worse, the risk of getting COVID-19 remains very real as new variants like Delta and Omicron continue to emerge. There are still millions of Americans who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu.
According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccine can be given along with other vaccines, including a flu shot, at the same visit. People usually get one vaccination in each arm. Many pharmacies offer both a flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine or booster at a single appointment.
Getting a flu shot and encouraging members to get them in addition to their COVID-19 vaccine or booster is an important step in keeping individuals healthy, while reducing the potential burden on our already strained health care system.