Despite the availability of flu vaccines, almost 60% of the population is not protected. Studies break down the numbers by age reveal that about 28% of adults 18-49 years of age receive a flu vaccination. Vaccine rates are low even for children – only 24%.1 This should be concerning for employers because the more children get sick, the greater likelihood that employees will miss work or become a carrier of the virus, spreading it throughout the work environment. Each infected employee may miss up to six days of work and need up to two weeks to make a full recovery.2 Overall, flu has been estimated to cause more than 75 million lost working days in the U.S. each year, contributing to $16.3 billion in lost earnings.3
If employees try to come to work when they have the flu, their performance is seriously affected. Studies show that workers with flu demonstrate impaired performance of simple reaction-time tasks by 20-40%, which can increase the probability of error or injury.2
The 2013 Walgreens Flu Impact Report suggests that the severity of last year’s flu season resulted in three times the impact to employers when compared to a more typical flu season: $10.5 billion in 2010-2011 versus $30.4 billion in 2012-13. Employers aren’t the only ones who reported significant financial burden, however; nationally the survey found that the flu cost employees $8.5 billion in lost wages, a 25% increase compared to the 2010-11 season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that influenza costs $6.2 billion in lost productivity, not to mention $10.4 billion in direct medical costs. Factoring in work absences and other variables, the total estimated economic burden is $87.1 billion.3
Providing employees with an annual flu vaccination in the workplace during flu season is an effective way to combat the cost and lost productivity. On-site programs provide an important public service and generate savings of between $15 and $85 per vaccinated person, or $2.58 per dollar spent on vaccination, that’s a possible savings of up to $4,000 for every averted illness.
A vaccinated workforce is also healthier.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Final estimates for 2009-10 seasonal influenza and influenza A (H1N1) 2009 monovalent vaccination coverage – United States. August 2009 through May 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/coverage_0910estimates.htm. Accessed April 24, 2014.
2 Keech M, Beardsworth P. The impact of influenza on working days lost: a review of the literature. PharmacoEconomics. 2008; 26(11): 911-924.
3 Molinari NA, Ortega-Sanchez IR, Messonnier ML, et al. The annual impact of seasonal influenza in the US: Measuring disease burden and costs. Vaccine. 2007; 25(27): 5086-5096
4 Walgreens 2013 Flu Impact Report. http://www.multivu.com/players/English/62923-walgreens-flu-season2013/links/62923-2013-Flu-Impact-Survey-10-11-13.pdf. Accessed April 24, 2014.
5 Nichol KL. Cost-benefit analysis of a strategy to vaccinate healthy working adults against influenza. Arch Intern Med. 2001; 161:749-759.
6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention and control of influenza: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Morb Moral Wkly Rep 2006; 55 (RR10):1-42.