Unless your business is in health care, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about vaccinations. Still, they’re an important part of any employee wellness program.
Vaccination rates are down, and that can mean bad things for your business. For example, when an unvaccinated boy in Oregon contracted tetanus, he spent 57 days in the hospital — and ended up with an $800,000 bill. If that were your employee on your health care plan, you wouldn’t doubt why your rates were going up.
Measles outbreaks are rampant. So far in the United States, there have been more reported cases of measles in three months than in all of 2018. In the Philippines, 70 people have died so far in 2019 from the measles out of the 4,300 people who caught it.
And it’s not just the medical costs — you also have to consider the costs of spending time away from work. Parents, in this situation, would be eligible for leave via the Family and Medical Leave Act to take care of their sick child, and of course you would want them to feel empowered to take time to be at the hospital. But you’d also be understandably upset about having to deal with the fallout of a completely avoidable situation.
Vaccines are more important now than ever. Here’s a refresher on vaccines and how to promote them among your employees.
Are Vaccines Safe?
Are vaccines 100 percent perfect with no side effects? No. But do the benefits outweigh the risks? Absolutely. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia explains that while there are known side effects of vaccines, the serious ones are rare, and the consequences of not vaccinating are high.
The past few years have marked a rise in concern over vaccine-induced autism, but that concept has been repeatedly debunked. A recent Danish study of 650,000 children once again showed no link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.
Of course, there are people with allergies or other health problems that prevent them from safely receiving vaccines, and every person should consult with their own physician (or their child’s pediatrician). But the overwhelming science says that vaccines are safe and effective. Even big business is acting to stop misinformation about vaccines. Amazon removed anti-vaccination movies, for instance, and Pinterest has started blocking anti-vaccine content.
How Can You Encourage Vaccinations at Work?
The first and simplest thing you can do is bring the flu shot to your workplace. Unlike the vaccine for tetanus, the flu shot changes every year, since influenza is a rapidly mutating virus. Instead of begging your employees to go out and get it done, make it convenient for them by arranging to host an onsite flu clinic, or medical professional to come in and administer the vaccine. Of course, outside of a health care setting, you can’t require your employees to be vaccinated. Still, bringing it on-site will drastically increase your coverage rate.
For children of employees, work with your health insurance provider to send out reminders to parents that it’s time for a checkup and the next round of vaccinations. Make sure that employees can use their sick time — or better yet, give them additional time off — to get their children to their appointments. It’s easier to get kids vaccinated on schedule than it is to try to catch them up before they go to school.
As you take these steps, consider holding a “lunch and learn” or seminar about the benefits of vaccinations, for both children and adults. Chances are, a good number of your employees aren’t up to date on their vaccinations and could use a booster shot or two. Bringing in an expert to talk about these issues can go a long way toward encouraging vaccination.
Wellness programs usually focus on healthy habits, and that’s incredibly important, but they also have to include a discussion about what your employees are doing to lay a foundation for their health. Vaccines are one of the biggest ways to help keep your employees and their families healthy.
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