Flu shots available beginning week of Sept. 7Aug. 18, 2020, 9:41 AM
by John Howser
This year’s effort by Vanderbilt University Medical Center to protect its people from influenza will be the most important in a century. With COVID-19 already prevalent, consuming precious health care resources, endangering lives, and so far, killing more than 170,000 Americans, this is not the year to shun getting a flu vaccine.
Flu and COVID-19 can share many of the same symptoms including fever, chills, cough, sore throat muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. And while the mortality rate remains lower for flu, the virus is still responsible for killing tens of thousands of Americans each year and making millions more ill for days or weeks.
Preliminary CDC data for the 2019-2020 flu season, which ended in May, found that flu was a factor in at least 18 million visits to U.S. health care providers, 410,000 hospitalizations and as many as 64,000 deaths.
Undoubtedly there will be some people who contract both flu and COVID-19 and could have both at the same time. So far there isn’t much data available to predict how having both viruses at once, or in quick succession, can impact morbidity and mortality but the potential to suffer both offers another important reason to seek a flu shot this year.
“We are facing unprecedented and unforeseen circumstances posed by this year’s flu season being layered onto the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, preparations are underway for the impact of both viruses circulating at once and the flu shot campaign will play an essential role. Not only is it a requirement through our Immunization Program for all VUMC employees to be vaccinated, including those working from home, it is essential for the health and well-being of everyone this year,” said Paul Sternberg Jr., MD, Chief Medical Officer for the Vanderbilt Medical Group and Chief Patient Experience Officer for VUMC.
“This year, we are very committed to supporting VUMC in receiving the annual influenza immunization. Our collective health is important for our patients, colleagues, families and communities,” said Marilyn Dubree, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Executive Chief Nursing Officer.
To ensure appropriate physical distancing for this year’s flu shot campaign the annual Flulapalooza event held under a tent behind Light Hall has been canceled. Instead, Occupational Health will utilize a variety of strategies to administer this year’s required vaccine to the VUMC workforce beginning on Sept. 7.
For more information about flu shot locations as they are scheduled, visit the Occupational Health Influenza Vaccine Program website at https://www.vumc.org/health-wellness/employee-influenza-vaccine-program.
Included among the strategies to vaccinate all VUMC employees this year will be availability at the Occupational Health Clinic in the Medical Arts Building, designated stationary walk-in flu shot locations on the downtown and One Hundred Oaks campuses, scheduled Occupational Health on-site visits to non-clinical areas such as labs and administrative offices, and the Peer Vaccination Program.
The processes used to administer this year’s flu vaccine offers the opportunity to develop and refine a process for the Medical Center to use when a vaccine becomes available for COVID-19. The Peer Vaccination Program in particular will be of the utmost importance this year, as the ability of clinical areas to vaccinate their co-workers will play an integral role in ensuring uptake of and compliance with both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine once available.
“The Peer Vaccination Program has always been a key, and convenient, way for departments to ensure their faculty and staff are vaccinated,” noted Lori Rolando, MD, director of the Occupational Health Clinic. “This year, we are asking that all clinical areas with the ability to provide vaccinations to co-workers utilize this program as a primary method of vaccination. Managers can start registering now.” More information on the Peer Vaccination Program can be found on the Occupational Health website at https://www.vumc.org/health-wellness/employee-influenza-vaccine-program.
The CDC recommends vaccination by the end of October to ensure immunity throughout the full flu season, although getting a shot later is still beneficial and flu vaccine will be provided throughout flu season. It takes about two weeks after getting a flu shot to achieve protection.
Employees who are working from home or otherwise have an opportunity to be vaccinated outside of the Occupational Health Clinic efforts are encouraged to utilize VUMC clinics. Flu vaccine given at these clinics will not have out-of-pocket cost, though insurance will be billed. A list of VUMC Walk-In Clinics, including Vanderbilt Health Walgreens clinic locations, can be found at https://www.myhealthwalkin.com/.