Doctor Tom Says, “Get your Flu Shot”

Flu season is just a couple weeks away. With this year’s outbreak of COVID-19, getting your flu shot may be more important than ever before.

Associates are encouraged to get vaccinated during the upcoming flu season.

 

Stop by your local provider or Walmart or Sam’s Club Pharmacy during regular pharmacy hours to get a flu shot.

We decided to ask our very own Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tom Van Gilder, why you should take influenza (flu) season seriously this year which includes (in his professional opinion) getting your flu vaccine. He talked about when to get your flu shot, what associates are eligible for flu shots with no out-of-pocket costs and even some added benefits to getting vaccinated.

Here's the whole conversation:

 

Dr. Tom, with COVID-19 outbreaks all over the country, why are we talking about getting flu shots right now?

It’s important to remember that COVID started during a flu season, so we have some experience with people who have had both the flu and COVID-19. It is possible to get infected with both viruses at once. We don’t know how often that happens. We don’t know how much that contributes to a more severe or a sicker course of illness, but I think we can be sure that having one virus is better than having two viruses. That means that everything we can do to avoid getting either one is good.

 

Are there any other benefits to getting a flu shot?

The very good news about the flu is that we have a shot, a vaccination, that is very safe and very effective. And it’s effective in not only reducing the chances that you would get the flu but in reducing how sick you might be if you do encounter the flu virus.  It even affects how likely you’ll be to enter a hospital or even how likely you would be to die from the flu, especially if you have underlying conditions like a lung condition or a heart condition.

 

It also has the added benefit of helping those around you and in your community. Those who have gotten the flu vaccine will lower the chances that the community will have an outbreak.

What are some other things we should do to prevent getting sick in addition to vaccination?

The good news there is that many of the things we’ve been practicing for months – hand-washing, social distancing, covering our coughs, using a mask – will work both to help COVID-19 infections and influenza infections.

 

Have you already gotten your flu shot?

I have not. I will probably wait until September.

 

Why not? And, when is the best time to get a flu shot?

What CDC recommends is that if you are at higher risk for complications – if you’re a little older, if you have an underlying lung or heart condition – that you wait into September or maybe even October to get your flu vaccine so that you get the full effect throughout the flu season, which can last into the spring. So, if you get it too early, your immunity might be running out by the time flu season is over, and you might be at a little higher risk at the end of the season.

It's good to wait if you can, but you also need to be aware of what is going on in your community at the time. If it starts circulating, get the vaccine, because it takes about two weeks to develop the full immunity after you receive it.

 

The other thing is that most of us live very busy lives, so if you have the opportunity to get a flu shot, take it, because you might get busy with life, and it may be difficult to do later.

 

Are all Walmart associates eligible for flu shots with no out-of-pocket cost?

Associates with no insurance and most associates in the Walmart Medical Plan can receive shots at Walmart or Sam’s Club pharmacies. For other plans and HMOs, you should check with your insurance provider to find out where you can receive your flu shot with no out-of-pocket cost.

 

Is there anything else you’d mention to keep associates healthy and safe during flu season?

In years past, when we’ve had Wellness Days during the flu season, that’s been an occasion for getting your flu shot. We don’t plan to have in-person wellness days this year, but we do plan to have virtual wellness days. If you’re used to getting your flu shot at a wellness day event, you might not be able to this year, so make the extra effort to get out and get your flu shot this year.

 

The first virtual wellness days kicks off in late August. The focus is delivering simple, practical, home-based health tips. These tips center around nutrition (particularly as it relates to diabetes), heart health (particularly high blood pressure) and mental health (particularly around anxiety and depression). It’s important to think about taking care of ourselves especially in these stressful times when we’re at home and may not have access to some of the things that usually help us in these areas.

 
For additional information about the associate flu shots, see below:
2020 Update
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Eligibility
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Q&A
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2020 Update
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Your overall well-being continues to be a top priority as you support your community during this pandemic.
 

We are expecting a busy flu season and want to help you protect yourself from influenza/flu, especially during this pandemic.

 

We want to make sure that all U.S. associates – full-time, part-time, temporary, hourly and salaried – have access to a flu shot with no out-of-pocket cost during the upcoming flu season. 

 

  • Associates covered by the Walmart Health Plan and most employer-sponsored plans can receive a flu shot with no out-of-pocket cost. 

  • We want to make sure that associates who do not currently have health insurance coverage that provides access to a flu shot with no out-of-pocket cost also have this option, so Walmart is making flu shots available at Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies through March 31, 2021.

  • We want to make sure you and your family stay as safe as possible during this difficult time.
Eligibility
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Associates covered by the Walmart Health Plan and most employer-sponsored plans can receive a flu shot with no out-of-pocket cost.  We want to make sure that associates who do not currently have health coverage that provides access to a flu shot with no out-of-pocket cost also have this option.

 

Flu shots offered to associates who do not currently have health coverage that provides access to a flu shot with no out-of-pocket cost will be available at Walmart or Sam’s Club from Aug. 15, 2020 through March 31, 2021.

 

  • Most associates in the Walmart Health Plan will also be able to receive a flu shot with no out-of-pocket cost at Walmart or Sam’s Club.  While there is no specific timeframe to receive your flu shot, we recommend receiving it as soon as possible after flu shots become available.

  • Associates in the Walmart Health Plan who have chosen an HMO option will need to contact the HMO at the number on the back of their HMO ID card to find out where they can receive a flu shot with no out-of-pocket cost.

  • Associates with other health coverage should contact their insurance provider to determine whether flu shots at Walmart or Sam’s Club are covered with no out-of-pocket costs.

 

Walmart Health Plan Members:  All options under the Walmart Health Plan cover flu shots with no out-of-pocket cost and most options cover flu shots at any covered provider– doctor’s office, urgent care clinic, Walmart or Sam’s Club pharmacy, etc.  If you have chosen an HMO option under the Walmart Health Plan, you should contact the HMO to determine where you can receive a flu shot with not out-of-pocket cost. If you think you have the flu, most options under the Walmart Health Plan currently offer free telehealth visits as a result of COVID-19 through Doctor on Demand– see www.doctorondemand.com/walmart.  Telehealth visits with your own doctor are also covered just like a regular doctor’s visit.  Depending on the plan you have, you’ll be charged the same copay or pay the cost of your care until your deductible is met.   If you have selected an HMO option, you should contact the HMO to find our what telehealth services are available. 

 

Associates with Other Insurance:  If you have insurance outside of Walmart your flu shot is likely covered by your insurance with no out-of-pockets cost.  You should check with your plan to see who the covered providers are for this service.  Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies are a covered provider on many insurance plans.

 

Uninsured Associates: Walmart will pay for your flu shot at any Walmart or Sam’s Club pharmacy. Simply go to the pharmacy, show your Walmart or Sam’s Club badge, a second photo ID and give your WIN (required), and you can receive a flu shot without cost.  

Q&A
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1. Why are you offering flu shots without cost to your associates?

  • With the COVID pandemic still affecting much of the United States, taking action against preventable disease is particularly important this year.  The flu shot can prevent disease, hospitalization and death related to influenza.  We want all associates to have access to this vaccine for the upcoming flu season without concern about the ability to pay, so flu shots for associates will be available from Aug. 15, 2020 through March 31, 2021
     

 

2. If my health plan option does not cover flu shots at Walmart or Sam’s Club, why won’t Walmart pay for my flu shot so I can receive it at Walmart or Sam’s instead of going where my health plan requires?

  • The purpose of this program is to ensure that associates who do not otherwise have access to a flu shot with no out-of-pocket cost, will have access to one for the upcoming flu season.
  • Different health plans have different coverage terms and not all cover flu shots received at Walmart or Sam’s.  While your health plan may not cover flu shots received at Walmart or Sam’s, it likely does cover flu shots with no out-of-pocket cost at other locations.    While we understand that receiving a flu shot at Walmart or Sam’s would be convenient, if you have coverage that requires you to go elsewhere to receive a shot with no out-of-pocket cost, you should do that.  We believe that is consistent with our commitment to EDLC. 

 

 

3. Are all types of flu vaccinations being offered without cost to associates?

  • Yes.  If you receive your vaccine at Walmart or Sam’s Club pharmacy, your pharmacist will select the vaccine most appropriate for your clinical needs.
     

 

4. When is flu season?

  • Flu shots are typically available in August and the season can last through January and beyond, depending on the particular flu season.
     

 

5. When do you recommend people get vaccinated for the flu?

  •  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting vaccinated in July or August is too early, especially for older people, because of the likelihood of reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season. September and October are good times to get vaccinated, but if the flu season remains active, through January and beyond are viable times, as well.
  • No out-of-pocket costs flu shots for associates will be available from Aug. 15, 2020 through March 31 at Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies.


 

6. A flu vaccine requires close contact – what are you doing to protect associates and pharmacists?

  • All associates and customers who wish to receive a vaccine will be required to go through a COVID symptom screening, temperature check as well as wear a face covering during the service.  If you don’t have a face covering, one will be provided for you.  Our associates delivering the screening and immunizations will have surgical masks, gloves, and a face shield to protect them during the close patient contact.


 

7. How do I make an appointment/get scheduled for a flu shot at Walmart/Sam’s Club?

  • Associates can simply walk up and ask for flu shot with their local pharmacy team.  You will need to show your Walmart or Sam’s Club badge and give your WIN. Walmart Health Plan Members will need their plan benefit card.  There also will be associate-only immunization events in stores and clubs for associates starting Sept. 1 to make the process quicker and easier. 


 

8. Can I get my flu shot while on-the-clock?

  • Flu shots should not be scheduled on the clock.   Associates should schedule before or after shift, on lunch break or another time convenient for you.


 

9. Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?        

  • Yes. It is possible have flu (and other respiratory illnesses) and COVID-19 at the same time.


 

10.   Why is it important for flu vaccine to be given during the COVID-19 pandemic?     

  • Routine flu vaccination keeps our associates healthy and able to work.  It also prevents respiratory illnesses that lead to unnecessary medical visits and hospitalizations, which further strain the healthcare system.


 

11. What are the symptoms of the flu and how do they differ from COVID-19?

  • Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.  Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two.
  • Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:
    • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Fatigue (tiredness)
    • Sore throat
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Muscle pain or body aches
    • Headache
    • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
  • Differences
    • Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, including common signs and symptoms listed above.
    • Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19, different from flu, may include change in or loss of taste or smell.
       

 

12.   Who can I ask if I have additional questions or concerns about the flu vaccine?

  •  Speak to your local Walmart or Sam’s Club pharmacist. Pharmacists are trained health care providers with knowledge of flu and other preventative vaccines.