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Fall 2019: Using communications to reduce the influence of workplace influenza

It’s that time of year again; harvest moons, homecoming parades, an Autumn chill in the air, and…flu season. Yuck.

How much of a problem is influenza? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of people who get the flu annually is in the millions, hundreds of thousands of those cases require hospitalization, and tens of thousands of the infected die. That is rather significant. Think about it, the equivalent of the population of a few small American towns perish completely from the flu, and that is each and every year.

The good news? Flu vaccines are readily available and are proven to be very effective. While an annual flu vaccine cannot guarantee that a person will not contract the disease, for those who do the illness is usually less severe and has a shorter duration. For the 2016 – 2017 flu season, the CDC states that vaccinations prevented approximately 5.3 million influenza illnesses from ever taking place, which, in turn, avoided approximately 85,000 hospitalizations that would have otherwise resulted. The Journal of Infectious Diseases notes that among children who come down with the flu, those who are vaccinated are 74% less likely to end up in a pediatric ICU. Finally, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) states that death rates from influenza are up to 5x higher for people not vaccinated. That’s a real bottom line fact with respect to the decision to get vaccinated or not; even if you do fall ill, getting vaccinated will reduce your chances of dying from the disease by a whopping 80%!

Why and how can employers get involved? Employer-sponsored onsite flu vaccine programs have proven to provide value to both employers and employees. Employers reduce costs by decreasing the time away from work for employees getting vaccinated and by avoiding absences and negative productivity impacts due to illness. The costs can be nominal as most employer health plans already carry a flu vaccination benefit, and such programs are generally a morale boost for employees. Employees also benefit from the convenience of having access to the vaccination at their workplace. The CDC states there is a demonstrated value in offering flu vaccines at work; around 85% of employees participate when vaccines are offered through an employer program versus about only 50% of the adult population who do not have such access. The CDC also offers employers a guide on how to get a workplace vaccination program started which can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/business/promoting-vaccines-workplace.htm. Employers who cannot offer an onsite vaccination program for one reason or another could consider a voucher program that reminds employees to get vaccinated and that covers any co-pays or other fees associated with doing so. Some of the most successful employer vaccination programs have thought to include vaccinations for employees’ family members as well.

Getting the word out to your employees. Consider BeneCom as your partner on promoting employer-sponsored vaccination programs such as on-site clinics and voucher programs. Educate your employees on the substantial health benefits and risk reductions that are easily attained through a simple and quick flu vaccination. Even if your employees do not participate in your employer-sponsored program, you can still encourage employees to receive flu vaccinations from their primary care physicians.

Contact BeneCom today to discuss ways to best communication and promote your company’s flu vaccination program.

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