As the 2021 fall flu season approaches, we are still battling the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its emerging variants. Combined, the viruses pose a dual threat to health and safety.
But unlike last year, we now have vaccines for both influenza and COVID-19, and public health experts advise anyone eligible should get both. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people over the age of six months receive the flu vaccine annually, while those 12 and older are advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Getting a flu shot can prevent the flu or at least reduce the severity of its symptoms,” said Dr. Jennifer Chambers, chief medical officer at Capital Blue Cross. “It also could help ease the strain on a healthcare system still coping with the lingering pandemic.”
For businesses, a harsh flu season can impact not only employee health, but also the company’s bottom line, due to increased absenteeism and lost productivity. Employers can play a major role in encouraging people to get flu shots, and insurers are helping through education and outreach.
Capital Blue Cross, for example, makes it easier for employers to promote flu shots, even as some employees continue to work remotely. Instead of traditional onsite visits, Capital Blue Cross’ health education consultants offer employers virtual education sessions for employees about flu prevention. The consultants explain the differences between the cold and the flu, when to seek medical attention, and key prevention techniques.
Capital also is providing a toolkit to employers to begin raising awareness about the need for flu vaccines, with messages for launching in the fall and continuing through January.
Capital Blue Cross’ employer-focused messaging evolves as the flu season progresses. In September, the message is awareness: flu season is here and it’s time to plan. In October, the focus is on encouraging employees to get the flu shot.
By December, Capital Blue Cross equips employers with tools to help employees keep focused on healthy behaviors, even after they’ve received the flu vaccine. Those include using the insurer’s Nurse Line and telehealth options and access to Capital Blue Cross’ online health education resources. And in January, the prevention message continues, but with an emphasis on encouraging others – coworkers, friends, family members – to get a flu vaccine as well.
“The flu season always brings an element of uncertainty, in that we never really know how fast or far it will spread,” Dr. Chambers said. “But having a flu season plan – and following it – can help employers keep their employees safer, and that in turn helps keep their family and friends safer and healthier.”