KAPOLEI, Hawaii, Oct. 7, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — With public health officials warning of a possible overlap of influenza and COVID-19 this fall, the stakes for increasing flu vaccination rates have never been higher. In response, ‘Ohana Health Plan is launching its annual Fluvention® program to encourage Hawaii residents to get a flu vaccine. This year also introduces new considerations, as ‘Ohana Health Plan also looks to help people better understand the differences between the flu and COVID-19.

Experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have begun urging Americans to get a flu vaccination. They, like many other public health experts, worry about health systems that are already stressed by large numbers of COVID-19 patients being overwhelmed by patients sick with the flu.

According to a survey conducted last flu season, prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S., 60% of adults think the flu vaccine is the best preventive measure against flu-related hospitalizations and deaths, but only 52% said they planned to get vaccinated. Furthermore, 18% said they were unsure about getting vaccinated, and the CDC has already noted a decline in child vaccinations–as parents have decided to forgo preventive care during the pandemic.

Helping to Reduce the Spread of Flu Across Hawaii
To help reduce flu-related illness and hospitalizations in Hawaii, ‘Ohana Health Plan will regularly communicate with members – via texts, phone calls, emails and social media – to encourage members to get their flu vaccines. Additionally, ‘Ohana Health Plan providers will receive messaging toolkits to help them strengthen how they communicate with their patients about getting their annual flu vaccination. This is especially important, because ‘Ohana Health Plan research shows that one of the main reasons people get a flu vaccination is because their doctors recommend it. ‘Ohana Health Plan members can receive a free flu vaccination through their doctor or at a pharmacy close to them.

“Each year, we encourage our members to schedule their annual flu vaccinations, and as Hawaii continues to face the ongoing COVID health emergency, it has never been more critical,” said Dr. Sherie Smalley, Chief Medical Officer, ‘Ohana Health Plan. “It can take two weeks after getting the vaccine for antibodies that protect against the flu to fully develop, so it’s best to schedule your flu vaccination as early in the season as possible.”

COVID-19 vs. Influenza
Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, so it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. There are also unique considerations for avoiding the spread of COVID-19 versus the flu. Below are a few key differences:

  • Some signs and symptoms of COVID-19 that differ from the flu may include change in or loss of taste or smell.
  • Flu symptoms typically develop 1 – 4 days after infection, while COVID-19 symptoms may appear 2 – 14 days after exposure to the virus.
  • Most people with the flu are contagious for 1 day before they show symptoms. With COVID-19, it’s possible for someone to spread the virus for about 2 days before symptoms, and they remain contagious for at least 10 days after symptoms first appeared. COVID-19 can also be spread by someone not showing any symptoms.
  • There are multiple vaccines to protect against the flu virus, but as of October 2020 there is no vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or the flu.

Vaccination and good hygiene, like washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes, are key to preventing the flu and staying healthy this flu season. While everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine, the CDC notes it is especially important for the following groups who are at higher risk for complications:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than age 5, but especially children younger than age 2 
  • People 65 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions

To learn more about ways to prevent the flu, the importance of vaccinations, and ways ‘Ohana Health Plan is supporting its members during flu season, visit www.wellcare.com/hawaii.

About ‘Ohana Health Plan
‘Ohana Health Plan provides government-sponsored managed care services to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (WellCare) across the state. ‘Ohana Health Plan is a wholly owned subsidiary of Centene Corporation, a leading multi-national healthcare enterprise committed to helping people live healthier lives. For more information, please visit www.wellcare.com/hawaii.

SOURCE ‘Ohana Health Plan

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