Hy-Vee’s mission is simple: to make our customers’ lives easier, healthier and happier. Throughout 2020, that meant partnering with customers to fight COVID-19. Hy-Vee already played a critical role as a neighborhood pharmacy in each of the more than 270 locations that offer pharmacy services, often being the closest pharmacy available.
Hy-Vee was among the first to offer COVID-19 testing, and once vaccines became available, Hy-Vee pharmacies developed an online scheduling system, rolled it out in an unprecedented timeline and proved to be one of the biggest providers of vaccinations in the eight states where it operates.
Hy-Vee was also selected as a Federal Retail Pharmacy Partner by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), providing customers with access to the vaccine early on. Hy-Vee saw the opportunity for a trusted provider to lead the charge in getting vaccines in as many arms as possible. The opportunity – and the outcome – was important, and it was a complex, fast-moving and high-stakes endeavor. Not only did vaccine guidelines vary from state to state, county to county, town to town, but availability was ever-changing, and within just a few weeks’ time, there were three different kinds of vaccines available, two of which required follow-up appointments.
In addition to offering appointments (and later, walk-in availability) for vaccines, Hy-Vee also hosted pop-up, mobile, employer and mass vaccination clinics in locations that would allow the greatest number of people possible to attend, where ease of access and transportation wouldn’t be of concern.
Hy-Vee strategically used many communication vehicles to inform community members about vaccine availability and effectiveness. This included outreach via email and phone, as well as issuing press releases to local media outlets on a frequent basis. In some markets, press releases were translated to reach Spanish-speaking communities. A dedicated web page (www.hy-vee.com/covidvaccine) with online scheduling capabilities was built to clearly communicate all logistical details about requirements for receiving the vaccine, customized based on location. Social media, internal communication and store signage were all employed to help spread the word. Free-standing posters, window and wall signage, flyers, café table tents and other various signs were created to be placed inside and outside Hy-Vee stores. To further incent vaccines, in May 2021 Hy-Vee began offering $10 gift cards to anyone completing their COVID-19 vaccination at a Hy-Vee pharmacy location or pop-up clinic.
Simply put, Hy-Vee vaccine program objectives were to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. To accomplish this, Hy-Vee developed a multi-pronged strategy to make vaccines accessible and provide a compelling case for why getting vaccinated is important. In addition to offering the vaccine at Hy-Vee pharmacy locations, and to ensure as many people as possible could receive the vaccine, Hy-Vee collaborated with cities, non-profits, businesses, schools and more to bring mobile vaccine clinics to communities. At the same time, Hy-Vee used social media, store signage and traditional media to communicate the importance of getting the vaccine in the fight against the pandemic
While Hy-Vee continues to offer walk-in vaccines at all of its pharmacies, the program to date has been incredibly successful. As of mid-September, Hy-Vee had vaccinated 1.8 million people in its eight-state region, and the leading provider of vaccines in its home state of Iowa.
Hy-Vee hosted clinics at 37 universities and community colleges and hundreds of businesses to vaccinate front line employees, working with large employers like General Mills, John Deere and Tyson Foods, to name a few.
In addition, Hy-Vee focused on making vaccines available to traditionally underserved populations by partnering with cultural, religious and community groups. Using its fleet of Hy-Vee Healthy You Mobiles, Hy-Vee had the ability to travel across its eight-state region to host clinics at churches and non-profits, and at events – everything from state fairs to farmers’ markets. In some communities, Hy-Vee has also hosted information sessions to help inform and educate individuals about the vaccines, with help from interpreters and translated documents.
Not only has Hy-Vee made it easy to get a vaccine, it also made a concerted effort to encourage vaccinations by communicating the benefits to its audiences and, in some cases, offering incentives. To communicate with all of its audiences about the availability of the vaccine, Hy-Vee used every available channel. The team issued more than 35 COVID-19 vaccine clinic press releases, with a total of nearly 9,000 stories published. It also created social media campaigns to highlight stories of “Why I Got Vaccinated” and used local Hy-Vee social media pages to communicate about availability of vaccine appointments in real-time.
“At Hy-Vee, our mission is to make lives easier, healthier and happier, and that mission has never been more important than now. Throughout this pandemic, local pharmacies have become the hub of neighborhood health care. With the help of regional pharmacy teams like Hy-Vee and our community partners, we’ve been able to help protect some of our most vulnerable populations against this virus.”
-- Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee Chairman, CEO and President
“Having the chance to work with Hy-Vee, 211, all the volunteers you see here today, and all of the community members coming together that moves us one step closer to having immunity and making it so that we don’t have to worry about this virus anymore.” - Dr. Caitlin Pedati, Iowa Medical Director and Epidemiologist, Iowa Department of Public Health, speaking about one of Hy-Vee’s mass vaccination clinics “We tip our cap to our friends at Hy-Vee. We have had a two-decade long partnership, and I can say unequivocally, today’s effort and subsequent efforts … will be the most significant effort we’ve ever done because these will be literally life-saving measures that we’re bringing into the community.”
-- Bob Kendrick President, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, talking about Hy-Vee’s vaccination efforts at the Museum