While waiting on ‘the’ vaccine, another vaccine is recommended

Thursday, September 10, 2020

1977 flu shot photo
SHOOTING A SHOT — In this 1977 photo, then Lab News photographer Bill Laskar reports to Sandia Medical Clinic for his annual flu shot. Nurse Eileen Kuruzovich administers the shot via an air gun. The clinic inoculated about 4,200 employees that year. For those concerned, Sandia’s medical team assures us they will not use air guns to administer flu shots this year. (Photo courtesy of Lab News archives)

While the world awaits an effective vaccine for COVID-19, Sandia is encouraging employees to get another vaccine that is available now: the 2020 flu vaccine.

Off-site vaccines currently are available at places like Walgreens and CVS and are covered by Sandia’s health plan. And, employees can earn 500 Virgin Pulse Points for getting the vaccine.

Vaccines through Sandia Medical are expected to be available starting in late September, but Employee Health Services recommends getting one as soon as possible because of the implications it has for COVID-19. Some off-site locations may require an appointment, so call ahead.

Peery gets a flu shot
LEADING BY EXAMPLE — Labs Director James S. Peery receives a flu vaccination from Sean Blanchfield at the Sandia Medical Clinic. Sandia clinics are expected to start offering flu vaccines in late September, but employees can get a shot now at off-site locations such as Walgreens and CVS. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson)

Dr. Dan Azar, lead physician for Sandia’s California site, said the need for widespread vaccination is especially important this year because:

  • Concurrent infection of influenza and COVID-19 is likely to cause more severe illness than either alone.
  • Fewer influenza cases means more medical resources left to treat COVID-19.
  • Fewer influenza cases means fewer flu-related absences for a workforce already impacted by COVID-19-related illness and quarantine.

Sandians typically get the flu vaccine at a higher rate than the general public — 26.2% compared to 21.4%.

Protecting workforce, community

“We’d like to see the ratio of vaccinated to not vaccinated flip in 2020,” said Renee Holland, director of Employee Health Services. “This year, too much is at stake to risk introducing seasonal flu into our Lab during a pandemic.”

flu bacteria illustration

Vaccinations are especially important for those at increased risk for serious illness from influenza — those 65 and older and those with a chronic illness.

“I encourage anyone without a medical contraindication to influenza (a rare circumstance) vaccination to get vaccinated yearly and as early in the year as possible,” Dan said.

Employees can report that they’ve taken the vaccine through the Health Check app and qualify for 500 Virgin Pulse points once per calendar year. Employees can also charge up to one hour of time to TRC 461 to get vaccinated.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about the importance of getting a flu vaccine this year.