LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (November 16, 2020) In this article from the November 16 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Dr. Vic Snyder, corporate medical director for external affairs at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, advocates getting a flu shot this year.
Every year, my employer, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, offers flu vaccines to employees at multiple geographic locations around Arkansas. This year, of course, everything is weird.
Eighty-five percent of Arkansas Blue Cross employees are working at home, quite successfully, by the way; but how do you safely do a flu vaccine campaign? The answer was a drive-through.
Recently, central Arkansas employees who wanted a vaccination could drive themselves and family members through one of our parking lots to get the vaccine. COVID-19 evaluations had to be done, including temperature checks.
It was anticipated that 150 injections would be enough for the six hours the vaccine was offered, that employees would have enough going on with their work and their family that taking time to drive downtown would be difficult. The result: 498 vaccinations were given, a bit chaotic but a great success!
The message is getting out: Flu vaccine is especially important this year. As is typical for influenza, into early next year, we are at risk of flu. It also appears COVID-19 is heading in the wrong direction as we spend more time indoors in cooler weather and darker evenings. We don’t need two diseases attacking our loved ones if an extremely safe vaccine prevents or lessens the impact of one of them.
I know that there is an abundance of information and misinformation available on the flu. But my own opinion is that for most people, a decision to get or not get flu vaccination is based on convenience and the recommendation of a doctor.
I just finished watching the well-respected Dr. Jennifer Dillaha at the governor’s weekly COVID-19 update finish her talk by recommending flu vaccine, so there’s your doctor recommendation. If you have any doubts, call your own doctor and ask for her opinion.
But extra encouragement helps. A few years ago, a Baptist Health clinic in Heber Springs had a contest, the “Flutucky Derby.” It was a friendly competition among all the staff, doctors, nurses and administrative personnel, over who could get the most patients in for flu shots. The winner would get a dinner at a restaurant. Two things happened. The campaign was so successful the clinic leadership decided everyone should get the dinner. And the clinic was written up in a medical magazine as an example of a simple but effective way of encouraging more Americans to get flu vaccines. Actually, three things happened, the third being a bunch of people in Heber Springs were protected against influenza.
The next few weeks is a good time for businesses, churches, and community groups to get creative: What can we do to encourage more people to get flu vaccines? Making an appointment at a clinic is generally a quick in-and-out. Many pharmacies administer flu vaccines. Quite a few schools are having flu vaccine days for kids. But all encouragement helps, whether it is a letter to employees, a notice in a church bulletin, or a take-home note to families with a young student containing information on flu vaccines. And maybe you belong to a group big enough to arrange for your own drive-through vaccination day.
Life is a bit strange right now. Strange with a bad case of influenza is worse.