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There's no doubt we're in for an arduous flu season. To combat the impending challenges coming this fall, experts are urging people to get their flu shot as soon as possible. Communities with higher flu vaccination rates are more likely to help local health systems maintain sustainable capacities. On the other hand, communities with low vaccination rates may face the challenge of both seasonal flu and COVID-19 patients requiring care at the same time—potentially overwhelming health systems.
Influenza is a leading cause of deathThe flu is dangerous in its own right, hospitalizing and killing tens of thousands of people each year and sidelining millions more for days or weeks. In fact, influenza is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States annually. From October 2019 to April 4, 2020, the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) estimates that there were as many as 56 million flu illnesses, 740,000 hospitalizations, and up to 62,000 deaths from the flu.
The flu vaccine reduces stress on the healthcare systemAs reported by NPR, people who avoid the flu will reduce the burden on a healthcare system already overwhelmed by COVID-19. Emergency rooms and urgent care clinics are often flooded with flu patients during winter months. Getting a flu shot will prevent some of those visits—and thereby avoid co-mingling flu patients and COVID-19 patients, who can infect each other and spread their viruses to other ER patients. To make things even more and dangerous, it is possible to be infected with both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. The flu and COVID-19 can share many symptoms, including fever, chills, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. In most years, many people feeling these symptoms will and simply ride them out and manage the illness with over-the-counter medicine. However, this year, because of the threat of coronavirus, even people who never see a doctor for the flu might seek medical attention if they feel flu-like symptoms coming on. Last year, the U.S. flu vaccine was about 40% effective on average, which is the typical effectiveness rate for a flu vaccine. However, even if the vaccine does not prevent someone from contracting influenza, it may lead to a less severe case, making it less probable that the person will need to head to the ER, leaving more room for COVID-19 patients.
What to communicate about the flu vaccineFlu season in North America doesn't really begin until October and peaks between December and February, but because of the ongoing global pandemic, now is the time for your patients to start thinking about getting a flu vaccine. In your communication efforts to patients, you should highlight the importance of individuals protecting themselves and others by staying healthy during flu season. Let people know that flu vaccines are generally free for anyone with Medicare Part B, employer health insurance or other insurance that conforms to the Affordable Care Act, as well as for many Medicaid beneficiaries. The CDC recommends a routine annual influenza vaccination for anyone over six months in age who does not have vaccine complications, especially for high-risk groups and their caregivers. Ideally, the vaccine should be administered by the end of October, but it will still be somewhat effective even if received later. The CDC's has an official flu shot locator to find places to receive the vaccine near you. Also, calling 211 or 311 should provide information on flu vaccine clinics in your area, including many hosted by local public health departments that do not charge a fee. For more information, visit the CDC's FAQ's on the 2020-2021 flu season and key facts about the seasonal flu vaccine.
How to communicate about the flu vaccineAs a healthcare provider, it is important that you make your patients aware of the importance of getting a flu vaccine, this year more than ever. One method you can use to communicate this message is Paubox Marketing, our HIPAA compliant email marketing solution. Paubox Marketing allows healthcare providers to send encrypted mass email messages which contain protected health information ( PHI) just like regular emails, directly to recipients’ email boxes with no extra steps. SEE ALSO: Healthcare Email Marketing Use Cases You can also use Paubox Marketing to share the most up-to-date coronavirus risks and guidelines, warn patients about the risks of delaying care due to the pandemic, and underline the importance of wearing a mask. In addition, if you are a non-profit healthcare facility, FEMA will reimburse 75% of the cost of emergency protective measures (such as communication regarding general health and safety), meaning you can have most of the cost of Paubox Marketing covered.
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