Flu season doesn’t end in October

Flu Season Doesn't End in October

Check patients’ immunizations year-round

In brief:

  • While most flu shots are given by the end of October, flu season can last into May
  • A flu shot can protect patients as long as the virus is circulating
  • CDC provides resources to promote National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 1–7 in 2019
  • To ensure that patients are fully protected from influenza, check immunizations as part of your pharmacy workflow year-round

Go beyond October

Demand for flu shots typically wanes at the end of October or November. But flu activity will still be on the upswing for several months. The peak month for the flu in the United States is typically February, but can range from December through March.

Peak month of flu activity — 1982–1983 through 2017–2018

Source: CDC, The Flu Season1

Since only about half of Americans usually get the flu shot, there’s plenty of opportunity to protect more people while the virus is still circulating. Based on how hard the flu hit the Southern Hemisphere earlier this year, U.S. doctors are warning this flu season could be particularly harsh2. Australia saw four times as many people get the flu and twice as many deaths in 2019 compared with recent years.

Even patients who have already had the flu this season can gain protection for the rest of the season by getting a flu shot.

Check immunizations every day, every way

At Trumm Drug Health Mart — with six locations in Minnesota — checking that all patients are up to date on their recommended vaccinations has become a normal part of the pharmacy’s workflow.

As a result, since last year, the pharmacies’ immunization business is up 15%, according to Aaron Finley, co-owner of Trumm Drug (with Allan Fettig). They bought the business in 2018. In 2019, Trumm Drug was named Health Mart Pharmacy of the Year.

“Flu shots are always on our radar,” Finley said. Trumm Drug is also constantly screening patients for whether they need the shingles or pneumonia vaccines.

Ensuring that patients are vaccinated

To ensure that all of their patients are fully vaccinated, Trumm Drug uses:

  • Pharmacy software that flags gaps in care
  • The state vaccine registry to check patients’ immunization history
  • Medication therapy management appointments
  • Medication synchronization calls
  • On-site immunizations for employers where Trumm can deliver at least 10 shots
  • Social media posts
  • Signs in front of the store
  • Staff simply asking, “Have you had your flu shot?”

While some people will not opt for the flu shot, Trumm Drug takes time to address myths that may be stopping them. That includes explaining that they won’t get the flu from the shot, and any symptoms will be milder than the actual flu3. Plus, Trumm Drug reminds all patients that an immunization is about more than the person getting the shot — it’s about protecting their loved ones, too.

Make a pre-holiday push

Just before the holiday season, when families will be gathering, is a good time to remind patients to be fully protected from the flu.

Since 2005, the CDC has been promoting National Influenza Vaccination Week in early December. This year it is December 1–7.

To help convince more people to receive the flu shot, the CDC has created a wealth of resources, from materials you can print to banners for your website, as well as GIFs and videos addressing the myths.

The business benefits of vaccines

Delivering immunizations is more profitable than just dispensing medications, Finley noted, and creates a different type of relationship with patients. Immunizations are one piece of the patient care puzzle, and an important one in protecting their health.

Before you start calculating your vaccine order for 2020, build asking about vaccines into your workflow to make sure you’re protecting as many people as possible this season.

Then, remind them to come in for their shot early next year.

Ready to give it a shot?

Health Mart® offers solutions to help you build and maintain a thriving business. Contact us to find out which vaccine solution is right for you.

1 The Flu Season, “Peak Month of Flu Activity — 1982–1983 through 2017–2018,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 12, 2018.
2Get a Flu Shot, Doctors Say, Warning That This Could Be a Severe Season,” Kate Thayer, Chicago Tribune, Oct. 23, 2019.
3Misconceptions About Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sept. 25, 2019.