Flu vaccines are in!

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Fall is quickly approaching and the cooler weather promises more than jackets and sweaters. With autumn comes flu season and the chance to prevent employee illness with easy flu shots. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, illness due to the flu costs businesses upwards of $10.4 billion each year1 in absenteeism, presenteeism, sick pay and other related costs. A flu shot, however, saves employers an average of $46.852 per worker in medical and sick leave. When the flu is contracted, the illness can result in three to five missed work days and two weeks of productivity loss once the employee returns to work.

Who should consider the flu vaccine?
While everyone is eligible to receive a flu vaccine, it’s especially important that the following groups get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications:

    • Pregnant women
    • Children younger than five, but especially children younger than two years old
    • People 50 years of age and older
    • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, asthma or diabetes
    • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
    • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including: health care workers, household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu, household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)

Be a partner in good health
It is important to remind employees about prevention practices, such as hand washing. Organizing a vaccination in the office or encouraging employees to seek out flu shots in the community are simple and efficient ways to reduce the risk of bringing the infection into the office.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have the following recommendations in order to increase the vaccination rate:

Solicit input and suggestions from employees and management
Prior to scheduling or organizing a campaign around flu vaccines, make sure to determine if there is interest from all employees and management. Gathering a small group of employees and management, or holding a staff meeting to solicit input about the business’ interest, is an essential first step. Those in charge can also determine whether any employees have connections or family members in the medical industry to help with setting up the event.

Set goals and determine rewards
In order to encourage the maximum participation rate, set goals for the entire business and consider creating a competition between departments or areas of the office. The department with the largest participation rate can win a lunch or some other incentive. If flu vaccinations become an annual office campaign, make sure to encourage employees to improve on previous years.

Incentivize participation
In addition to setting goals for participation, offer flu shots at no or low cost if vaccinations are administered in the office or nearby. The business can also offset the costs of vaccinations at a community facility. Once the shot is dispensed, you can also provide refreshments or healthy snacks for participants.

Share the benefits
Make sure to inform workers about the benefits of receiving a flu shot and emphasize the advantages of being vaccinated both in and out of the office. If budget allows, you can offer the shots or incentives to employee family members to ensure employees do not become carriers and bring the flu into the office space.

If the office does not provide the flu shots, offer motivation to seek the injection elsewhere by allowing employees to use one or two hours during the work day get the shot without requiring them to clock out. Businesses can also partner with a nearby pharmacy, health care facility or insurance provider to reserve shots for employees or times to be vaccinated.

Addressing employee concerns
Some employees may be concerned about side effects or negative outcomes to receiving the flu shot3. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states there is no research to suggest receiving a flu shot means you will contract the flu since the virus is deactivated, or dead, when it is injected into your arm. According to the latest study, the only side effect is pain near the injection site. In rare cases, developing symptoms similar to the flu are attributed to patients who already were carrying the disease. A flu vaccination does not guarantee an employee will not contract the flu, but can lessen the severity of the illness. It is also important to check for possible allergies to the injection, such as a severe allergy to eggs.

The following types of flu shots are offered at most administering locations:

    • Flu shot — an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, sometimes a micro needle, in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women.
    • Nasal-spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for “live attenuated influenza vaccine” or FluMist®). LAIV is approved for use in healthy* people two to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.
    • High dose Fluzone – sometimes indicated for 65 years of age and older.

* “Healthy” indicates persons who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.

Be proactive this flu season to protect your health and the health of your business. Please contact Hoag Executive Health at info@hoagexecutivehealth.com or 855-209-3610.

Written by Leeann Garms
[1] http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/business/toolkit_seasonal_flu_for_businesses_and_employers.pdf
[2] http://www.thevnacares.org/index.php/care-in-the-community/for-the-community/flu-and-vaccination-services/workplace-flu-and-immunization-clinics/
[3] http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm