Off-target flu shot will cost employers

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Dec 9, 2014

Every year, federal scientists make a bet on the flu: They try to figure out what flu strain will be dominant, and vaccine makers produce a flu shot to fight that strain.

“In some years, the prediction is on the mark, and in some years the prediction is further away from the mark,” says Dr. Bruce Lee, an associate professor of international health at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. This year, the vaccine is off the mark, which probably means more flu, he says. “We’ll see more cases this year, and more severe cases.”

Last time this happened, Lee says, businesses spent almost $140,000 more on flu-related costs per 100,000 workers.

But employers can fight back. 

“You could increase the number of shifts so there are not as many people working together in the office. Some companies limit the number of meetings,” says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm. 

And Challenger says employers should still encourage workers to get a flu shot. Because, doctors say, even if you end up getting the flu, you will carry less of the virus. And that’s good news for your co-workers.  

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