Dispelling vaccine myths: How to boost employee flu clinic participation

The 2017–2018 flu season was one of the longest in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that cases of influenza-like illness were at the highest level since the 2009 flu pandemic. Flu cases were also above the national average for 19 weeks, from November through March.1

Despite these powerful statistics, many people are still not sold on the value of the flu vaccine and decide to forego their annual immunization. If you’re planning to host a flu clinic for your employees, there are several steps you can take to boost participation among your workforce, including:

  • Educating employees about the advantages of the flu vaccine
  • Dispelling myths about the flu vaccine
  • Making it easy for employees to participate in flu clinics

How the flu vaccine helps employees
Flu vaccines can provide many advantages for businesses, such as reducing absences and lowering health care costs. But employees can also get a lot of value out of vaccination, and it can help their co-workers and family members, too.

Some of the advantages of the flu vaccine include:

  • Helping you stay healthy. The flu vaccine protects against multiple strains of flu and changes from year to year to help provide coverage for the most common flu viruses.
  • Keeping loved ones safe. Protecting yourself against the flu can help prevent the spread of disease to loved ones who are most at risk for serious side effects from the flu (young children and the elderly).
  • Saving money. The flu vaccine helps you avoid out-of-pocket costs related to doctors’ visits or hospitalization caused by the flu.
  • Boosting attitude and morale. When you feel healthier, you’re more likely to have a positive attitude and outlook.
  • Helping to keep you in the game. If you get sick with the flu, you may have to miss work, social events or important family time. Staying healthy can help boost your productivity and ensure you don’t miss out on fun activities.

The importance of flu vaccine education
Much of today’s news seems to be filled with controversy and questions about vaccines. But the fact is that the flu vaccine can make a big difference in preventing disease in our community.

To boost participation in your flu clinics, it’s crucial to educate your workforce and dispel myths about the flu vaccine. You can do this through marketing materials like posters and emails, or through articles on your employee blog or intranet.

Here are some of the common myths (and truths) about the flu vaccine:

MYTH: I’ll get the flu from the flu vaccine.
FACT: The flu vaccine has an inactive flu virus, so you won’t get sick from the vaccine. If you get sick shortly after receiving the vaccine, it’s likely you had the flu virus in your system before getting vaccinated, as symptoms can take a few days to surface.

MYTH: The flu vaccine can cause other health problems.
FACT: Vaccines are safe. The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program estimates that only one in 4.5 million doses of vaccines causes illness or health problems.[1] The most common complaint after receiving the vaccine is soreness around the injection site.

MYTH: I never get sick. I don’t need the vaccine.
FACT: On average, 20–30% of people carry the flu virus but don’t have any symptoms. If you are a carrier, you could pass the virus on to someone you work with or a family member.

Other ways to boost flu clinic participation
If you’re planning to host a flu clinic at your workplace, it’s important to make access to the clinic as easy as possible. Plan to have the clinic take up most of a day, or multiple days, to ensure your employees can find a time that works for them. You should also try to schedule the clinic before peak flu season — ideally before the end of October[2] — to get the most out of the vaccines. Flu season typically lasts from November through February.

It’s also a good idea to promote the clinic as much as possible on your various marketing channels. Try to start promoting at least a month in advance.

If you’re working with Optum on your flu clinic, we’ll provide a marketing toolkit to help you advertise the event and promote educational materials about the vaccine, so you can encourage employee participation and help keep your workforce healthy.

Learn more about how you can host a flu vaccine clinic at your organization.


About the Author

Debbie Levy

Debbie Levy
Product Director, Biometric Solutions, Optum

Debbie Levy is the product director for Optum Biometric Solutions. In this capacity, her primary responsibilities include product management, strategy and innovation of the Optum Biometric product line.

Prior to joining Optum, Debbie worked in product management for MoneyGram and Hewlett-Packard. Debbie has over 15 years of product management experience. She holds an MBA from Cornell and a BS from the University of Virginia.


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Summary for the 2017-2018 influenza season. gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2017-2018.htm. Last reviewed Nov. 8, 2018. Accessed June 4, 2019.
2 Hambin J. Why the government pays billions to people who claim injury by vaccines. theatlantic.com. com/health/archive/2019/05/vaccine-safety-program/589354/. Published May 14, 2019. Accessed June 4, 2019.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who needs a flu vaccine and when. gov/flu/prevent/vaccinations.htm?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fflu%2Fconsumer%2Fvaccinations.htm. Updated Aug. 31, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2019.

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