As we’ve pointed out—and as has been emphasized in mainstream media reports in recent weeks—far more Americans are at risk for contracting influenza than the coronavirus. The same holds true for associated deaths, as well. At least 15 million people have been diagnosed with flu so far this season. Mortality projections from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention range from 14,000 to 36,000. Compare that with the fact that as of February 17 there have been 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 spread across seven states in the U.S., with 60 cases still being evaluated. The good news is that such facts are starting to sink in with the public, and even having something of a positive effect. Anecdotal evidence in the form of local newspaper articles from around the country indicate that there’s been an uptick in the number of patients seeking flu shots since the COVID-19 outbreak (and subsequent media coverage). This is a prime opportunity for urgent care operators to embrace their role as public health educators. If a patient expresses anxiety, or even just curiosity, about COVID-19 explain to them the greater risk of influenza—and offer to give them a flu shot if they haven’t had one yet. Whether they accept, decline, or say they’re already covered, they’re likely to remember how well-informed you are and appreciate your taking the time to help them understand something that’s causing worldwide panic (in large part unnecessarily in this country).
Fears Over COVID-19 Are Driving More Patients to Get Flu Shots