Written by Galen Perkins is CEO of Express Rx, a pharmaceutical retailer with 20 store locations in eight states across the Southeast, including three in Carthage, Joplin and Webb City, Missouri.
Running a successful business is not for the faint of heart. It demands ingenuity, hard work and a hefty dose of risk tolerance. Perhaps most importantly, it requires the ability to react swiftly, and effectively, when confronted with extreme stressors.
One threat even the most experienced and crisis-tested CEOs around the globe have struggled with: COVID-19. And now, there is an additional workplace challenge for them to confront: a possible twindemic.
As the New York Times noted, the 2020-2021 influenza season could spell disaster for U.S. workplaces, particularly if Americans decide to forgo their annual flu shots. Every year, this life-threatening respiratory illness affects millions of our nation’s workers. It fills doctor’s offices, emergency rooms and intensive care units—many of which are already inundated with COVID-19. Doctors now believe patients infected with the flu may be more vulnerable to contracting severe cases of COVID-19, further jeopardizing our nation’s potentially scarce health care resources.
To help stave off this possible twindemic, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has encouraged American workplaces to hold flu vaccine programs. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, seconded this guidance. He urged all Americans six months and older to get the flu shot to at least “blunt the effect of one of those potential respiratory infections.”
But how are Missouri workplaces expected to effectively administer flu vaccines in the midst of a global pandemic and strict social distancing-related health and safety and guidelines?
In accordance with the CDC, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is now pressing health care professionals to think outside the box. Community pharmacists—often the most used and readily available providers available, especially in rural areas—are stepping up to help. These dedicated individuals are working with small businesses and corporations alike to develop plans for off-site or drive-thru clinics that will meet the demand for this essential service while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. During this time of uncertainty, both for companies and their workers, pharmacists are serving as go-to, 24/7 resources. They are fielding questions about new health care offerings, including the quadrivalent high-dose vaccine for those 65 years and older, addressing common misconceptions about the shot’s efficacy and, in certain cases, lingering distrust of vaccinations in general.
As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, Missouri businesses will have to tackle many stressful scenarios. But dealing with an outbreak of the flu in the workplace shouldn’t be one of them. By implementing a safe and effective flu vaccination program, either with in-house support or with a third-party health care provider, companies can help protect their workforces and the state’s economy.