Improving childhood vaccination and flu shot rates during COVID-19

Published November 13, 2020

During COVID-19, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are leading efforts across the country to improve rates of childhood vaccinations and flu shots.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases as Americans continue to evaluate the safety of in-person doctor visits. A Blue Cross Blue Shield report estimates approximately 9 million childhood vaccinations could be missed by the end of 2020.  As vaccinations lag 2019 numbers, experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are advising providers to continue coordinating vaccination catch-up efforts with public health officials at local, state and federal level.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are working in local communities with initiatives that include educational programs, community outreach and partnerships with local organizations that improve access to vaccinations for at-risk communities. 

Improving access to vaccinations

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is giving residents another option for traveling to flu shot clinics: bicycles. Between Dec. 6-12, 2020, National Influenza Vaccination Week, the health plan is offered free rides across Metro Boston on Bluebikes, a public bikeshare program in Boston and surrounding communities. Interested riders can use the national vaccine finder tool to find a clinic and pedal over. The health plan also has robust information on the importance of the vaccine this season and other ways to access it.

The Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) mobile health program helps bridge gaps in preventive care by delivering services such as childhood immunizations and influenza vaccinations, as well as providing health literacy to its communities across Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. In 2019, HCSC enhanced its mobile health program reaching more than 150,000 people by expanding influenza services with the purchase of additional flu vaccine stock; adding staff costs due to an increased number of vaccines administered; and supporting new partnerships with local community organizations and health departments. 

Connection on digital platforms

Blue Cross and Blue Shield Alabama is expanding the use of text messages to remind members about vaccinations. In addition, BCBS Alabama sends postcards to member households and utilizes a digital alert banner on the company’s website reminding members as they log in to get a flu vaccine. The company aims to eliminate gaps in care by addressing vaccinations during routine wellness checks.  

Free flu shot clinics and statewide education efforts

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation (BCBST Foundation) invested in a multichannel campaign to educate Tennesseans about the safety and efficacy of the flu shot, including a TV and radio PSA featuring BCBST’s chief medical officer, along with social media ads. To help remove barriers, the foundation funded a series of drive-through flu shot clinics operated by provider partners statewide. BCBST and its foundation also worked with churches and pharmacies to host additional flu shot clinics.

Tracking the numbers

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) is developing a database to help target communities with outreach and vaccination clinics.  The health equity dashboard will provide data and insight to allow for deeper understanding of needs within at-risk communities.  Blue KC executives say the dashboard will help identify trends and non-medical factors that negatively impact health in vulnerable communities. 

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans.