Flu Shots Help Employees Stay Well, Remain Productive

Fall is the season to begin employee flu vaccination programs

By Stephen Miller Sep 15, 2008
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As flu season approaches, businesses can invest in their employees’ health by providing on-site flu shots through third-party providers, health experts recommend.

Flu season starts in October and runs until March, but it can continue into spring. Yearly flu vaccinations typically begin in late September and continue throughout the influenza season. Vaccine manufacturers are estimating that 143 million to 146 million doses of flu vaccine will be produced for the United States during the 2008-2009 flu season.

Research conducted earlier this decade and published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found that healthy workers who had been vaccinated against the flu reported 43 percent fewer sick days and 44 percent fewer doctor visits as a result of upper-respiratory illnesses (see “Influenza Vaccination for Healthy Young Adults,” abstract). Another NEJM article summarized that:

"An analysis of healthy workingadults revealed reductions in the incidence of upper respiratorytract illness, in visits to physicians for upper respiratorytract illness, and in days of sick leave for both upper respiratorytract illness and any illness. Similar degrees of effectivenessin the elderly and in healthy adults have been reported by otherinvestigators." (See “Prevention and Treatment of Influenza,” full article).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population catches the flu each winter. Flu experts are optimistic about the effectiveness of the current flu vaccine, as the CDC and the World Health Organization have for the first time in 20 years changed all three strains in the vaccination to protect against the viruses predicted to be prevalent this season.

Making Vaccinations Convenient and Accessible

"With flu season only weeks away, businesses need to begin employee vaccination plans now," advises Dr. Jeffrey Greiff, founder of Flu Busters, a third-party provider of preventive health care services. "By investing in employees' health, business can save dollars in lost productivity, insurance and other health care costs."

Greiff explains that "many workers won't get a flu shot because of the perceived time and energy it takes. On-site preventive services bring immunizations to employees," which allows workers to be vaccinated at or near their job, instead of scheduling a doctor's appointment or waiting in line at a clinic or pharmacy, cutting down on time away from work.

Flu Vaccinations Reduce Sick Days

When the influenza vaccine is well matched to circulating strains, flu shots have been shown to:

  • Reduce physician visits for upper respiratory illness up to 44 percent among healthy adults.
  • Reduce employee lost days of illness by 34 percent.
  • Decrease use of antibiotics by 28 percent for flu-associated illnesses, thereby lowering corporate insurance costs.
  • Save businesses more than $45 per employee.

Source: Flu Busters

Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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