While there’s no vaccine for COVID-19, there is one for influenza, and public health officials are urging people to get a flu shot by the end of October. Getting one is the best way to prevent the spread of the flu, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many companies encourage their employees to get flu shots each year. Should yours be one of them?
Flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months. Flu activity typically begins to increase in October and November and often peaks between December and February. The flu vaccine isn’t just for children and the elderly. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control says everyone should think about getting one. While the flu vaccine is not 100% effective, each year it reduces the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations and deaths of both adults and children. According to the CDC, from October 1, 2019 through April 4 of this year, 39 million to 56 million people had the flu, resulting in 410,000 – 740,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 24,000 – 62,000 deaths.
Flu shots may be even more important this year. Many people with chronic health conditions who are high risk for the most severe complications of COVID-19 are also at risk of severe flu-related complications. With no vaccine yet approved for COVID-19, getting a flu shot can help reduce the likelihood of coming down with both viruses at once, or getting the flu first and then testing positive for COVID-19.
How should your company approach the idea of flu shots with its employees? Most employers nationwide outside of the health care industry encourage employees to get flu shots instead of trying to mandate them. Some people have strong views against the flu shot and other vaccines. It also can be a tricky legal area. That’s because under federal law, employees may make a request that they not be required to get a flu shot due to medical or religious reasons.
Studies show that offering on-site flu clinics, providing paid time off to get a flu shot and/or paying for the cost of each employee’s flu shot (if the shots aren’t covered by insurance) can help to substantially increase the number of workers who get vaccinated. Teaching employees about the health risks of influenza and offering other incentives to get a flu shot also can help boost the percentage of workers opting to get vaccinated.