Seasonal Flu Shots Help Keep Employees Healthy, Businesses Productive
Flu shot a vital protection in the 2021-2022 flu season
Seasonal flu vaccination to protect against serious illness and hospitalization takes on added importance this year. More of the nearly 162 million employees nationwide have returned to the communal workplace, even while prevalence of COVID-19 and the delta variant remains high in many regions.1,2 So, for anyone wondering about the risk of getting the flu, the equation has changed from last year, when a majority of employees worked from home, reducing their potential exposure.
In addition to working from home, other factors that contributed to dramatically fewer seasonal flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths3 in 2020-2021 were adherence to COVID-19 mitigation measures (masking, social distancing, decreased travel, etc.) and a higher rate of vaccination. Among U.S. adults, 55 percent were vaccinated against the seasonal flu last year.
That was higher than in the pre-pandemic 2019-2020 season, when adult coverage reached 45 percent by the end of January and 48 percent by the end of May4, which was still better than in other years.5
Encourage your employees to get the flu shot
Employees responded to the advice they heard from employers and the medical community, including Concentra®, on the vital need for seasonal flu vaccination in the time of COVID-19. Concentra’s informational resources included web pages, employee materials, and the following articles:
- “Seasonal Flu Vaccination Is Vital for Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic”
- “How to Talk to Your Employees About Getting a Flu Shot in the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Since last flu season, polarizing rhetoric has swirled around COVID-19 vaccination and, in some cases, vaccination in general, largely in social media. The confusion that frequent misinformation has caused is why it is even more important this year to communicate to employees about getting a flu vaccine.
The flu shot is the best way to avoid serious illness
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says getting a flu shot is the single best measure vaccine-eligible people can take to avert serious illness, and it provides protection that is especially valuable for people at higher risk of serious flu complications:
- Young children
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart and lung disease
- Adults 65 and older
The CDC recommends flu vaccination – ideally from now to the end of October – as well as these other measures: 6
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick; if you are sick, isolate yourself from others
- Cover your coughs and sneezes; wash your hands frequently with soap and water
- Avoid touching your face
- Disinfect common surfaces and objects
- If you get the flu/flu symptoms, ask your health care provider about an antiviral medication prescription, which may reduce illness severity but is not available over the counter
How to encourage your employees to get the flu shot
Employers, once again, can serve a pivotal role in communicating the importance of the seasonal flu vaccine for workforce health and what arrangements, if any, will be made to encourage employee vaccination, such as an on-site episodic vaccination event.
As human resources and safety leaders, as well as supervisors, plan their messaging to employees on flu vaccination, they may find the Concentra article, “Have the Conversation: Talk to Your Employees About Getting a Flu Shot in the COVID-19 Pandemic” offers good food for thought.
This article outlines 12 reasons people DO choose to get their annual flu shot (generally, beliefs in vaccine effectiveness, desire to protect self and others, and someone telling them to get vaccinated).
Overcoming barriers to vaccination
As for vaccine hesitancy – or why some employees may be harder to convince that an annual flu shot is needed – the Concentra article gives three major categories of reasons:
- Beliefs of personal invincibility (“I never get sick”)
- Concerns about vaccine safety and effectiveness
- Barriers in trust, support, or logistics
Employers who demonstrate that employees are valued and who take steps to make the flu vaccine easily accessible will substantially address the third “barriers” group.
The second group of concerns can be addressed by creating a timeline to give employees a better sense of how long the flu vaccine has been saving lives. This may help give employees assurance of flu vaccine safety and the strong, widespread commitment behind it.
Flu vaccine: Almost 90 years of science and experience
The information below is derived from a longer timeline provided by the CDC.7
- In the 1930s
- Scientists isolate separate influenza A and influenza B viruses
- Scientists show that flu is not caused by bacteria
- In the 1940s
- A two-component (bivalent) vaccine is produced; it offers protection from both influenza A and influenza B viruses
- The flu vaccine was licensed for civilian use (1945)
- Scientists discover the composition of circulating viruses changes from year to year; annual surveillance and year-to-year adjustment of vaccines will be needed
- In the 1950s
- The death of 1.1 million U.S. residents due to a new flu virus in 1957 lead the US Surgeon General to recommend annual flu vaccination for vulnerable Americans (with chronic disease, 65 and older, and pregnant women) in 1960
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launches a preventive medication that proves effective against influenza A but not influenza B
- In the 1960s
- Another new influenza virus emerges (H3N2) that will cause a pandemic and about 100,000 deaths in the U.S.
- In the 1970s
- An outbreak of an H1N1 (swine flu) virus leads to a vaccination program to prevent a pandemic. Within 10 months, about one-fourth of the U.S. population is vaccinated.
- In the 1990s
- Following isolation of the H5N1 (avian flu) virus and the first case of human infection, as well as the 1999 dominance of a virus hybrid of human, bird, and swine flu viruses, the World Health Organization publishes a pandemic-planning framework to enhance influenza surveillance, vaccine production and distribution, antiviral drugs, influenza research, and emergency preparedness
- In the 2000s
- U.S. publishes the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan
- The first nasal spray flu vaccine is licensed for use
- In 2020-2021
- A record 194 million seasonal flu vaccine doses were distributed in 2020-2021.8
- Vaccine manufacturers project they will produce from 188 to 200 million seasonal flu vaccine doses for the current flu season.9
- Employers and health officials urge employees to get a seasonal flu shot for their protection; symptoms of seasonal flu can mimic the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, now in the second year of a pandemic that is keeping hospital intensive care units full.
Talking to employees who “never get sick”
What about the first group, the employees who feel invincible and “never get sick”? Some employees may never be persuaded to get a flu shot. Again, offer encouragement, express their value to the team, make access to the flu vaccine as easy as possible, and remind them the only interest is in protecting their health.
Flu season severity impossible to predict
No one enjoys feeling ill, having to drag out of the sick bed to visit the doctor, or, worse yet, needing to be hospitalized for days, if a hospital bed is available. These misfortunes are burdensome. The CDC even uses the term, “influenza disease burden” in addressing illness, medical visits, and hospitalizations in the statistical updates it has provided from 2010 up to the most recent flu season. Here are the documented highs and lows so far10:
- Symptomatic illness – high of 45 million; low of 9.3 million
- Medical visits – high of 21 million; low of 4.3 million
- Hospitalizations – high of 810,000; low of 140,000
The highs were all recorded in the 2017-18 flu season and the lows were all from 2011-12.
In 2019-2020, there were an estimated 38 million symptomatic illnesses, 18 million medical visits, and 405,000 hospitalizations.11
Concentra: Your trusted seasonal flu vaccine provider
Concentra provides flu shots at nearly 520 medical center locations across the country. Specifically, Concentra utilizes the Flucelvax Quadrivalent flu vaccine, which is produced using cell-based technology. Observational studies have shown greater protection against flu or flu-like illness among people who received Flucelvax compared to those who received standard-dose egg-based vaccines, according to the CDC.12 “Quadrivalent” means that the vaccine protects your employees from four prominent virus strains.13
The flu season typically peaks between December and March, and it can start as early as October and continue through May. Concentra will provide flu vaccines as long as supplies last. It takes a few weeks after getting a flu shot to reach full immunological protection, so don’t delay. Contact your local Concentra medical center today and get started protecting your workforce from serious illness.
- Employment status of the civilian population by sex and age. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. August 2021.
- COVID-19 United States Cases by County. Johns Hopkins University. Accessed: September 14, 2021.
- 2020-21 Flu Season Summary FAQ. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed: September 14, 2021.
- Weekly National Flu Vaccination Dashboard. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 5, 2021
- Influenza Flu Vaccine Coverage by Population. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed: September 14, 2021.
- Preventive Steps. Take time to get a flu vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed: September 1, 2021.
- Influenza Historic Timeline. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Page reviewed: January 30, 2019.
- Historical Reference of Seasonal Influenza Vaccines Doses Distributed. Influenza Vaccine Doses Distributed in the United States by Season. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed: August 4, 2021.
- Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Supply and Distribution. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed: September 13, 2021.
- Past Seasons Estimated Influenza Disease Burden. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed: October 1, 2020.
- Estimated Influenza Illnesses, Medical Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths in the United States in the 2019-2020 Influenza Season. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed: June 2, 2021.
- Influenza. Cell-Based Flu Vaccines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed: May 6, 2021.
- Flucelvax Quadrivalent. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Reviewed: July 6, 2021.