Patricia Chaney

Are Your Employees Getting the Vaccines They Need?

Vaccinations aren’t just for kids — there’s also a recommended adult vaccines schedule. Encouraging your employees to get vaccinated can improve health throughout the workplace and protect the business’s bottom line. After all, regular illnesses can add up to lost wages, reduced productivity and increased health care costs. But many illnesses can be prevented by staying up to date with vaccinations.

Here’s what you need to know about vaccines and your employees.

Benefits of Vaccines

The benefits of getting regular vaccinations are many. Chief among them:

  • Herd immunity. Vaccines not only keep a given individual safe, but they also help prevent the spread of diseases among groups. This “herd immunity” is what makes childhood vaccines so important. Among adults, the flu vaccine is similar. If your employees get vaccinated and fewer get sick, that helps lessen everyone else’s chances of exposure to the virus.
  • Fewer missed days of work. While you should urge sick employees to stay home, sick days take a toll on the business, with flu resulting in an average of five or six missed days of work, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. And parents may miss work when their kids are sick, too, so it’s important for your employees to both protect themselves and vaccinate their children.
  • Reduced medical costs. Research reported in Health Affairs estimates that vaccine-preventable illnesses cost about $9 billion per year in medical expenses. Five percent of those costs are estimated to be from productivity losses and lost wages. Of the 10 vaccine-preventable illnesses researched, influenza is the most prevalent and makes up for the largest portion of those costs.

What Vaccines Should Adults Get?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following adult vaccines:

  • A flu shot annually for all ages
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap), with a booster every 10 years for all ages
  • Herpes zoster (the shingles vaccine) for adults age 50 and older
  • Pneumococcal vaccines (to prevent pneumonia) for adults age 65 and older

The CDC recommends other vaccines, such as for hepatitis A and B or varicella, if your employees have certain other medical indications. Your employees can get more information on other recommended vaccines from their doctors.

What Health Insurance Covers

Another step toward getting employees vaccinated is to make sure they understand that the shots are covered by insurance. Common vaccines are covered by private insurance and Medicare as preventive care.

To avoid copayments or coinsurance, employees should visit an in-network physician to receive the vaccine. They may also go to pharmacy clinics, mobile clinics or urgent care to receive shots, though they may have to pay a fee for those.

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Promoting Vaccines Among Your Employees

Many people have become wary of vaccines in recent years, whether for themselves or for their children. Although the majority of people are confident in the safety of vaccines (77 percent), that number has dropped 8 percentage points in the past decade, according to research reported by MedPage Today. That increased wariness has led to a rise of vaccine-preventable diseases, like the measles outbreak that started in Disneyland in 2014.

When it comes to adults, 53 percent of people surveyed said they didn’t get the flu shot, and almost half of them said it was because they didn’t trust the vaccine. Many believe in false risks from other vaccines as well.

So to promote vaccines among your employees, you may first need to dispel some misconceptions. In sharing information about vaccines and the research that supports their value and safety, look to trusted sources like the CDC or the World Health Organization, and encourage your employees to bring any questions or concerns to their doctors. From there, discuss the personal benefits of staying vaccinated, such as money saved and fewer missed days of work.

Making sure your employees stay vaccinated is a crucial step for turning your workplace culture of wellness into a truly healthy workforce.

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