Keeping Communities Well: Reminding Patients of the Importance of an Annual Flu Vaccine
By Peter Kounelis, R.Ph.
Have you spoken with your patients yet about the importance of an annual flu vaccine? The 2017-2018 flu season was a severe one. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), more than 80,000 Americans died from influenza or influenza-related complications last year. Since a large number of those people were not vaccinated for the flu, many of those deaths were likely preventable.1
Influenza vaccinations play a vital role in community health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that any individual over the age of six receive a flu shot each autumn. And for good reason. Studies suggest than an annual flu vaccination can reduce the risk of infection from strains like influenza B and influenza A (H1N1) by 40% to 60%.2 And the benefits extend beyond preventing illness or disease severity in a single individual. Flu vaccines can also reduce the risk of infection for everyone a vaccinated person comes into contact with — including children, pregnant women, older adults and those who have compromised immune systems or other chronic health conditions.
"Patients are more likely to get vaccinated when no appointment is required."
While public awareness is growing and more Americans understand why annual flu shots are so important, for many patients, getting vaccinated doesn't always make it to the top of the to-do list. This makes it all the more important for community members to have easy and accessible options for vaccination. In fact, the CDC stresses the vital role of pharmacies offering flu shots in their stores. That's because patients are more likely to get vaccinated when no appointment is required.
It's important for pharmacies to promote this valuable service to current patients and to all members of their community. Here's how:
- Ask the question. As you engage a patient in conversation, take a moment to ask whether or not he or she has gotten a flu vaccination for this season or if they plan to. If the answer is no, explore why not. That could provide an opportunity to educate the patient about the importance of the vaccine, correct any misconceptions or even offer to provide the flu shot on the spot.
- Advertise. Patients can only take advantage of in-pharmacy flu shots if they know they are available. By advertising flu vaccinations, you are not only letting your community know your pharmacy offers them but also reminding busy patients how easy it can be to mark it off their to-do lists. Post placards in your store windows as well as place flyers on the pharmacy counter. Add notices to your pharmacy website and app—and share reminders on social media. Good Neighbor Pharmacy members can access personalized marketing materials to help them in these endeavors.
- Educate. Look for opportunities to participate in community events or health fairs where you can provide important information about the need for the flu vaccination — and other vaccinations and health services provided by your pharmacy. Consider reaching out to local schools, churches or other community organizations to see if there are opportunities to provide wellness education, including information on the importance of an annual flu vaccine.
Pharmacies can take the lead in helping to keep their local communities healthy this flu season—and increase revenue in the process. Get started today with a little planning and a few thoughtful conversations.
1 . National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). Influenza and pneumococcal disease can be serious, health officials urge vaccination. Published 27 September 2018. Accessed 1 October 2018.
2 . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vaccine Effectiveness - How Well Does the Flu Vaccine Work? Questions and Answers. Updated 6 September 2018. Accessed 1 October 2018.
'Tis the Season for a Flu Shot
An annual influenza vaccination is the best protection against the flu virus. Some patients however, are still skeptical. Continue to educate patients on the importance of getting vaccinated. And for those that need a little extra motivation, remind them of what they could miss out on this holiday season.