Oct. 22, 2020
By Dacona Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Walmart U.S.
For months, communities across the country have been writing letters, banging on pots and pans and cheering on healthcare workers to thank them for their incredible service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, one of the best ways to honor and support healthcare workers is by taking care of your health, starting with getting a flu shot.
Don’t just take my word for it: Walmart teamed up with healthcare heroes who wrote heartfelt letters to our customers, urging them to get a flu shot to protect their families while also limiting the burden on our healthcare system this fall. The letters are being showcased at Walmart pharmacies nationwide to encourage as many people as possible to do their “immunity service” by getting a flu shot this year.
Dr. Mark Sharon is a Family Medicine Specialist in Plymouth, Wisconsin, and one of our featured health heroes. I recently had a chance to learn more about his incredible service during the COVID-19 pandemic and why he wanted to support our Health Heroes initiative:
Mark, thank you for spending some time with us. You have a really unique story about your role in the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic. What has it been like for you as a healthcare professional this year?
I practiced family medicine in a small town in Wisconsin for the past 37 years. I retired last April from full-time practice. My clinic asked me to continue part of my surgical practice until they could get more help and also asked if I could be available for our urgent care services as needed. So, as COVID-19 hit our community, I was called more frequently to cover for a few doctors as they were moved to the front lines or became ill or quarantined. I do think the two-month shut-down was very effective. But, unfortunately, we’re once again seeing a huge spike in cases, deaths and hospitalizations. Therefore, I have a feeling my work is just beginning.
That’s remarkable, you really earned the title “health hero.” What does it mean to you when people call you a hero?
Well, I don’t consider myself a hero. I didn’t slay any dragons or jump into fire. I’m just doing my job. But, if you think of a hero as someone who puts the interest of others ahead of their own, it’s nice to be appreciated for that. These last few months have also made me appreciate our other heroes such as maintenance workers, cleaning staff, teachers, farmers, food processors and essential store workers to name a few.
Many medical experts have cautioned that a second wave of COVID-19 expected to hit during the cold and flu season could create what they are calling a “twindemic.” How should we prepare to protect our families?
Experts have been bracing us for the “twindemic” since the spring. When the first wave hit the U.S., the flu was winding down here, so we didn’t see that one-two punch that we’re starting to see now. However, we can learn from the southern hemisphere where influenza has been a fraction of what it used to be – almost nonexistent – because they were serious about masking, distancing and flu vaccinations. It would be wonderful if we could simulate that.
It’s important to get the flu shot early. Just like a fire, it’s better to put it out early rather than late. Now is the time to take seriously masking, social distancing, frequent and proper handwashing and staying out of enclosed areas with lots of people the best we can. We don’t know yet the effects of someone having both influenza and COVID-19 simultaneously. The real threat is overwhelming our health system with additional non-COVID testing and hospitalizations. When we do that, it can get scary fast. Taking the flu out of the picture is possible and could prevent a catastrophic overloading of our health systems.
Many people are staying home more during the pandemic. Why is it still important to get a flu shot during this time of increased social distancing?
People who are social distancing are already very cautious in what they are doing, and the flu vaccine is another important precaution. They are eventually going to see people whether they’re going to the grocery, pharmacy or doctor. Keep in mind that there are lots of safe ways to get the flu vaccine. People can safely get a vaccination at Walmart while they are grocery shopping. It’s a bonus you can get your essential shopping and a flu shot done at the same time.
I speak for so many members of the Walmart community when I say how grateful we are to you and the rest of the health-care providers for your hard work throughout the pandemic. How can we thank you?
Consider me already thanked by giving me this platform to represent the medical profession and encourage the flu vaccine. Heroes are people who put the benefits of others first. We can all be heroes by wearing masks, social distancing, frequent proper hand washing, and getting a timely flu vaccine and encouraging our friends and family to do the same.
Convenient, affordable flu shots are available at Walmart’s pharmacies across the country, including new features and safety precautions for COVID-19. We hope you’ll join us in honoring Mark and the rest of our health heroes by making an appointment for your flu shot today at www.walmart.com/flu. You can be a hero to our health heroes by getting a flu shot this fall.