What motivates Australian employers to vaccinate their workers against flu?

OHS and HR personnel tell me that there are two main reasons:

  1. They want to protect ‘their people’ from a potentially severe illness, and
  2. To protect the financial ‘health’ of their company or organisation.

The rationale for immunising is simple: pay a relatively small cost upfront to save a potentially much bigger one later due to lost productivity or replacing bed-ridden workers. In 2012, Australia’s Influenza Specialists Group estimated the average cost to a company for each week an employee was off work with flu at $1300.

Given that you too see the value of this ‘insurance policy’ against flu, do you vaccine your workers at work, or send them to a clinic or pharmacy?

More and more companies are choosing the workplace. Not only is it more convenient, but the outcome is more certain because:

  • More workers are likely to roll up their sleeves than if it’s left to them to arrange vaccination outside of work hours.
  • It’s done by medical teams experienced in immunisation procedures.
  • It can be arranged well before the flu season gets underway so workers have optimum protection before this year’s flu strains start to circulate widely.

The unseen workplace risk factor

The cost of onsite vaccination depends on the number of workers to be vaccinated.

For a workforce of 15 or more it costs *$25 per person (excl. GST) for the three-strain flu vaccine to be administered onsite in a metro area (slightly higher in regional areas), and *$40 for the new four-strain vaccine. For a quotation on the cost of onsite vaccination, please go online or email us at flu@sonichealthplus.com.au

This autumn, a four-strain or ‘quadrivalent’ flu vaccine is being used for the first time to immunise Australians eligible for free immunisation under the National Immunisation Program. That includes pregnant women, infants, the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions.

It should be remembered that more than 1.2 million otherwise ‘healthy’ adults have underlying medical conditions which puts them into the higher-risk category for a potentially severe bout of flu, according to a study conducted by the Influenza Specialists Group.

Studies confirm flu vaccinations benefits

Employee vaccination programs are ‘engineering work practice controls’ — effective and enduring interventions that don’t rely on changing individual behaviours.

Employers who subsidise workplace vaccination programs stand to see a significant ROI. This is particularly apparent during a severe influenza season, when employee productivity may be heavily interrupted by flu-related absenteeism.

Separate studies showed that workplace flu vaccination at a Malaysian petrochemical plant clearly decreased flu-like illness rates and absenteeism while a Brazilian pharma-chemical company yielded a net benefit of $US121,441 or $35.45 per vaccinated employee. A US study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1995 found compelling health and economic evidence of the effectiveness of flu vaccination for healthy, working adults.

Half of the 850 study group received the seasonal flu vaccine, the other half a placebo. The research found that those who received the vaccine reported 25% less upper respiratory illness, had 43% fewer sick days, and 44% fewer GP visits.

The study concluded that vaccination resulted in a cost saving of $46.85 per vaccinated employee and that immunisation against influenza had substantial health-related and economic benefits for healthy, working adults.

Vaccinating its workforce against seasonal flu each year is a win-win for every company or organisation.

  1. Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th edition, 2013. Canberra: DoHA; 2013. Influenza Available at: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/handbook10-4-7
  2. Newall, A.T, Scuffham, P & Hodgkinson, B. Influenza specialist group (2007) Economic report into the cost of influenza to the Australian health system. Accessed 5.4.15 Available at: http://www.isg.org.au/assets/assets/isg-cost-influenza-report-30-2007.pdf
  3. Duncan, I.G, Taitel, M.S, Zhang, J. and Kirkham, H.S (2012) Planning influenza vaccination programs: a cost benefit model. Cost Effectiveness and Resource Allocation (10:10) Accessed 5.4.15 Available at: http://www.resource-allocation.com/content/10/1/10
  4. Lee, B.Y, Bailey, R.R, Wiringa, A.E, Afriyie, A. & Wateska, A.R et al (2010) Economics of employer-sponsored workplace vaccination to prevent pandemic and seasonal influenza. Vaccine (28:37) 5952-5959. Accessed 5.4.15 Available at: http://www.resource-allocation.com/content/10/1/10
  5. Kristin L. Nichol, M.D., M.P.H., April Lind, M.S., Karen L. Margolis, M.D., M.P.H., Maureen Murdoch, M.D., M.P.H., Rodney Mcfadden, M.D., Meri Hauge, R.N., Sanne Magnan, M.D., PH.D., AND Mari Drake, M.P.H. The Effectiveness of Vaccination Against Influenza in Healthy, Working Adults Volume 333 October 5, 1995 Number 14. Available at: http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM199510053331401
Tonia Buzzolini
RN, MPHTM, CTHISTMImmunisation Nurse

Tonia has an extensive knowledge in travel medicine; she has been working at Travelvax Australia for the past 20 years, most recently as the National Operations Manager. She has a Master’s in Public Health and Tropical Medicine; she passed the International Society of Travel medicine’s Certificate of Travel health in 2005.

Read full bio
More from this category