Dispel myths among members who fail to get their flu shots

November 1, 2011

The biggest challenge health insurers face each year is convincing members to get their flu shots.

NATIONAL REPORTS-The biggest challenge health insurers face each year during influenza season is convincing members to get their flu shots.

"A yearly influenza vaccine is the first and most important step an individual can take in protecting against the flu," says Jeff Dimond, public affairs specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A report by Walgreens found that influenza resulted in 100 million lost workdays and nearly $7 billion in lost wages in the United States. In addition, influenza causes more than 200,000 hospitalizations and up to 24,000 deaths each year, but those rates fluctuate, depending on the severity of the flu season and who comes down with the flu, says Dimond.

"The last few years have seen a decrease in the number of deaths related to influenza," says Dimond.

Bill Fried, MD, senior medical director at Aetna Inc., says influenza-related claims have been lower than expected. It's too soon to tell how this season is shaping up.

Despite vaccination being the best defense against influenza, there are barriers to implementing the annual recommendation to vaccinate everyone older than age six against influenza. Those barriers are education, access and cost, according to Scott Josephs, MD, national medical officer for health management at CIGNA.

Public and private health officials do a better job overcoming the access and cost barriers today. Influenza vaccination is available in retail outlets, pharmacies, urgent care facilities, workplaces, as well as the doctor's office, and many plans offer zero-copay vaccination.