This year, some of your patients may consider staying home and skipping their influenza vaccination. But it’s more important than ever to make sure your patients are getting their flu shots. Here’s why.
Flu shots and COVID-19
Flu seasons for the past few years have been harsh, and health experts are worried that this year will be, too. The 2018-2019 flu season was the longest in a decade, spanning 21 weeks and sickening 42.9 million people. The 2019-2020 flu season sickened between 39 million and 56 million people and killed at least 24,000 people, including 170 children, making it the deadliest flu season for children in the past decade.
Health experts worry that COVID-19 could deter people from getting their flu shots. In addition, many places that used to offer flu shots to groups – such as employers and school health clinics – aren’t able to do so this year. This has the potential to cause a “twindemic” of both COVID-19 and the flu, further overwhelming the world’s hospitals.
Recommendations for 2020
The CDC is emphasizing that flu shots are more important than ever before to avoid getting sick and to reduce the potential strain on our health-care system. The CDC is also encouraging employers to find ways to help their employees get vaccinates. Some institutions are making flu shots mandatory, including the Massachusetts school system. By December 31, 2020, all children 6 months or older who attend Massachusetts child-care programs, pre-school, K-12 schools, colleges, and universities will be required to get a flu vaccine.
How to get a flu shot
Due to the decreased access to flu shots caused by COVID-19, your patients may be unsure of how they can get vaccinated. Fortunately, there are still many opportunities available for them to get their flu shot this fall. Of course, patients can get their flu shots at their PCP offices. CVS and Walgreens are still offering flu shots at their locations, and Walgreens is also offering off-site clinics in health centers and churches. CVS is allowing patients to fill out the flu shot paper digitally rather than doing it when they come in and prolonging their time in-store. Both places will check temperatures and screen patients for COVID-19 before giving them the vaccine.
If your patients want even more options, they can check out the CDC’s VaccineFinder widget. Patients can use it to search for places to get many vaccines, not just flu shots. Patients can sort vaccines by the age at which they’re received and chose the ones they want to get. Then, they input their address or zip code and a search area they’re willing to travel, such as 10 miles. Once they click “Search for Vaccines,” a list of locations as well as a map will propagate to show them where the vaccines are available. Your patients should still call the location they plan to visit for their vaccine to make sure it’s being offered, but this search engine is still a helpful tool to help your patients get a flu shot.