Although many think flu vaccination programs begin in late summer, the key to a successful program is year long planning. This year it is more important than ever. According to a Reuters poll, over 60% of Americans say they will receive a flu shot this year. In a normal year, less than half get vaccinated. A survey conducted by CVS Health shows the percent of people who say they will get vaccinated rising from 34% to 65%.
There are three important parts to a great vaccination program-
- Supply procurement
- Protocols and procedures
Many suppliers have fast approaching deadlines for reserving vaccines. It seems it takes a crystal ball to know how much to order, for an over supply can result in waste and reduced profits while a lack of supply can lead to frustration and unfilled promises. While in store demand should be higher this year, it is also important to consider the effect of flu clinics and off-site business clinics. It is very unlikely that we will see large numbers of seniors lining up at a community flu clinic this year. Likewise, businesses that have participated in on site programs in the past will face new logistical issues. We may also see many people still working from home where in the past they received their vaccination at the office. We would anticipate that demand in long term care facilities will rise. It is important to have discussions as soon as possible with the coordinators of the offsite clinics for it is wrong to assume it will be business as usual. Despite these challenges, it is wise to anticipate demand will be greater this year. Most importantly, make sure you reserve your supply in a timely manner. You may also want to order syringes and swabs earlier than usual.
Protocols and procedures are more important than ever. What additional steps will be necessary to protect your staff and your patients while administering the vaccine both in store and off site? It goes without saying that adequate PPE is mandatory and that social distancing must be observed. Reducing paperwork is also essential. Where possible, having the patients complete an online form and retrieve product information through a portal may decrease patient contact. Perhaps the traditional community clinics could be replaced by drive up clinics. If businesses are hesitant to host a clinic, a strong voucher program may be an answer.
Marketing will be essential. Each year it seems we start earlier and earlier but even if you do not plan on giving vaccinations until late August or early September, it is never too early to market. An educational web site and social media presence can help patients understand the importance of the flu vaccine. Communication with local businesses on how you can help keep their staff healthy should be started now. Work with agencies who specialize in seniors to find ways to serve their clients. Begin discussions with the long-term care facilities on how your program will work this year.
Just as the flu can sneak up on you, so can the flu season. Start planning now, everyone is counting on you.