Flu prevention is particularly critical this season. Even more so than usual, it's important to prevent exposure to immunocompromised people and avoid overburdening our health care systems amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Vaccination is a major component of keeping people safe, but not everyone takes advantage.
Your members might need some flu shot encouragement — here's five ways union leaders can take action.
1. Focus on Education
Use job site posters, emails, social media and your website to talk with members about the flu. Consider sharing one fact every week, including:
- The flu is a serious respiratory illness that can result in missed work, hospitalization and even death.
- Up to hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized each year because of the flu, and thousands die.
- Each year, anywhere between 5% and 10% of American adults will get the flu.
Direct members to weekly reports on flu activity by state from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) so that they understand the impact in their local community.
2. Bust Vaccine Myths
Common myths about the flu and the vaccine stop some people from getting a flu shot. Make sure your members know the facts:
- The flu vaccine is safe.
- The chance of complications is extremely rare.
- The vaccine doesn't cause the flu.
- You need a shot every year, no matter your age or how healthy you are (unless a medical professional has advised against it due to an existing health condition).
- Your arm might get sore, but the flu feels much worse.
3. Tout the Benefits
Taking a few minutes to get a flu vaccine pays off exponentially. When workers have more protection from the flu, they're less likely to miss work. They're also less likely to have large, out-of-pocket medical expenses related to flu treatment (and, in fact, the vaccine might already be fully covered under members' benefits). Not only does a flu shot protect members, it also helps keep their colleagues, friends and loved ones safe.
4. Offer Incentives
Some of members may be more likely to get the flu shot if there's an incentive available. Consider setting a union-wide goal for total vaccinations, or start a contest among various groups to see who can get the greatest portion of their members to participate. If the union reaches its goal, or if a certain team wins, award a small prize. Or, consider individual incentives, such as gift cards (opt for grocery stores over restaurants to keep members socially distanced), offer a flexible spending account contribution, give out gift bags with coupons to local businesses or work with employers to provide a few extra paid hours of leave.
5. Make It Convenient
Members are more likely to get vaccinated when it's convenient. If you've offered on-site vaccination clinics in the past, COVID restrictions may complicate that. Instead, consider possible alternatives:
- Provide a list of local clinics, grocery stores and other locations offering the vaccine, or direct members to the vaccine finder website.
- Set up a drive-thru clinic to reduce contact and remain socially distanced.
- Continue to offer an on-site clinic but require advance scheduling to limit the number of people in one room.
- Ask employers to give members paid time off for vaccination.
- Talk with local medical providers or your insurance company about offering in-home flu shots to those who can't visit a clinic.
Above all, recognize that not all of your members work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. Make sure to provide recommendations and make accommodations that make sense for all schedules.
While flu shot encouragement is important every year, it's perhaps more critical now due to the pandemic. The vaccine can't keep members from contracting coronavirus, but it can provide protection against the flu and help members stay healthy.
Heather Kerrigan started her career in journalism at Governing magazine, reporting on state and local politics and policy, with a specific focus on public workforce, environment, health care, education and technology issues. Prior to co-founding River Horse Communications, Heather offered freelance editorial services to a variety of outlets, including serving as volume editor and lead author for SAGE Publications' Historic Documents series and editor-in-chief of The Kanter Journal. Heather also blogs for two government-focused publications, GovLoop and NEOGOV, covering issues of importance to federal employees. Heather is the author of the book Retire Rich With Your 401(k) Plan. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The George Washington University.