Looking ahead to the fall, experts are warning against a severe flu season paired with a surge in COVID-19 patients. Even a mild flu season could put serious pressure on hospitals that are already pushed to the limit.
Q: What can hospitals and health systems do to encourage flu shots in their communities?
Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas
DIRECTOR OF CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS & PIO
With flu season beginning and COVID-19 still spreading in Texas, Parkland Health & Hospital System has launched an educational campaign regarding the importance of getting a flu vaccination. We recognize that while the flu shot won’t prevent COVID-19, it will slow the circulation of flu and keep people out of the hospital, conserving medical resources needed to care for critically ill COVID-19 patients. Thus, Parkland is administering free flu shots for the general public who do not have insurance or the ability to pay for immunization. To reach the public, we are leveraging existing and new advertising partners, social media, earned media as well as community and faith-based leaders to help us reach defined demographics, particularly those who were significantly impacted by COVID-19, including Latino and Black audiences. We are also working with an area high school where students are serving as champions in their community to get the word out about the importance of getting a flu vaccine.
We’ve also made it convenient for individuals to receive a flu vaccine by utilizing existing drive-through COVID-19 testing sites for flu vaccinations. And throughout the fall Parkland will offer drive-through flu vaccine clinics at its network of Community Oriented Primary Care health centers throughout the county. Flu vaccines are also available at Walk-in Wednesday events held each week at neighborhood COPCs.
Texas Hospital Association, Austin
CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER
We quickly launched a full-blown digital campaign in English and Spanish in August, before the vaccine was even available. We wanted to start planting the seed that a flu shot needs to be at the top of everyone’s to-do list, and if you’ve ever been on the fence about getting one, this is the year to do it.
Our hospitals have been in the trenches for month, managing the pandemic on the frontlines. We have a special force against flu that we don’t yet have with COVID-19 – a vaccine. Getting a flu shot is the No. 1 way to protect yourself from the flu, plus it helps protect our health care resources. Hospitals are bracing for a double whammy with flu on top of COVID-19, and we’re doing everything we can to protect them. Our digital campaign is available to all hospitals via a toolkit on our THA website. They can download the graphics and messages and brand them for maximum impact.
We’ve learned a lot from COVID-19, and we’re hoping the public continues to follow the precautions. Never have people been so plugged into details about virus circulation, precautions and vaccine development. This knowledge – and not letting our guard down – will help us get through the season. We hope all hospitals continue to share messages with their communities. We’re proud to be a source of clear, consistent messaging and are always open to ideas from our members to help them navigate the challenges they continue to face during this pandemic.