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
- 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.
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 [email protected]
Written by Leeann Garms