Flu and the workplace
About 20% of Australians are affected by influenza each year (Dugdale, 2007), so it’s likely that at least some of your employees will be affected in the coming flu season.
Influenza can be debilitating – not only for individuals who catch it and their families – but also for the organisations they work for.
People with flu may need to take up to six days off work – which can impact on their productivity during and after the episode, as well as the productivity of colleagues who need to cover their workload. This can be compounded considering the infectious nature of the flu and the number of workers who may be affected as a result of flu circulating through a workplace.
Further, reaction times are cut by 20–40% in people with flu, which can increase the probability of error or injury.
Why offer a workplace vaccination program?
There are many benefits to conducting an onsite corporate flu vaccination program for your employees, including the likelihood of reduced sick days and a smaller negative impact on workplace productivity.
The good news for corporations is that vaccinating healthy adult workers can reduce the number of employee sick days and has been shown to be a cost saving for companies across a range of industries.
Workplace vaccination programs are estimated to result in a significant return on investment, particularly during a severe influenza season or pandemic.
The influenza vaccination is 70–90% effective in preventing influenza specific illness in healthy adults. Immunity develops about two weeks after vaccination and lasts for a year. The best time to vaccinate is in the autumn, before the actual outbreak in winter.
Ensuring success of a workplace vaccination program
A strong communications strategy is critical to implementing a successful workplace flu vaccination program. It is important to provide as much of the right information as possible to allow employees to make an informed decision. Information can include topics such as myths and facts about flu, and flu hygiene tips. Online booking systems, catering for shift workers and providing the service at a convenient onsite location can all play a significant role in ensuring success.
Choosing a corporate flu vaccination provider
When choosing a corporate flu vaccination provider, ensure they:
provide an onsite service
use vaccination qualified personnel
comply with the National Vaccine Storage Guidelines
maintain cold chain management of the vaccine
hold the appropriate and applicable health services permits to store and administer the vaccine.
Flu symptoms include fever, chills, aches, pains and tiredness, headaches, cough and a runny nose
The flu vaccine contains a tiny amount of an inactive form of the virus which, when injected, triggers the body to produce antibodies that protect against the particular strains of influenza that are expected to circulate in the coming months. The vaccine does not contain any live viruses and thus cannot cause the illness. Serious adverse reactions are rare, with the most common reaction being local redness and swelling at the site of the injection (Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing)
In 2012, the influenza strains determined by the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee based on information and recommendations from the World Health Organization have remained unchanged. Annual vaccination is recommended for optimal protection against influenza, even when the influenza vaccine strains remain unchanged from season to season. This means people who had the flu vaccine in 2011 will still need it again in 2012 (Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing) (Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee, 2011)
About the author
Chris Rabba is General Manager, Peak Health Management, part of Bupa
For more information: Immunise Australia www.immunise.health.gov.au. Bupa www.bupa.com.au
This information should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice. Neither the author nor Bupa Wellness Pty Ltd (trading as Peak Health Management) make any warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information nor are liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of or reliance on the information, except that which cannot be excluded by law. We recommend that you consult your doctor or other qualified health professional if you have questions or concerns about your health.