Safeguarding employee health during this year’s flu season

Workplace influenza immunization clinics are cost-effective, comprehensive measures that employers can take to improve employee health and safety

Safeguarding employee health during this year’s flu season

Getting vaccinated has never been more top-of-mind for Canadians with the potential for a return to in-office work in the fall. Although most are currently focused on the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s not the only vaccine your doctor probably wants you to get this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world over the past year and has increased awareness of health and safety practices that can help prevent airborne viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19. For example, increased hand sanitizing, wearing masks, and physical distancing have all been promoted to curb the coronavirus. However, these were methods already recommended to mitigate the spread of another disease that was commonly spread in workplaces and other public areas before the pandemic — influenza.

Influenza, or “the flu,” has taken a back seat to COVID-19 over the last year, but it’s still a serious disease that causes up to 3,500 deaths annually and more than 12,000 hospitalizations in Canada, federal government numbers reveal. The safety measures in place to minimize the spread of COVID-19 have helped reduce the spread of the flu last year, but it doesn’t mean employers should forget about it.

Employers must be conscious of the threat of the flu, as workplaces are areas that can easily spread respiratory diseases. During the pandemic, numerous employees have been working from home for this reason, but many will be returning post-pandemic. This will open the doors to a potential resurgence of the flu, as it’s easily spread in the workplace, and, with strains constantly changing, there is always a risk and a need for annual vaccinations. Employers have a responsibility to ensure employees’ safety. This is where workplace immunization clinics come in.

A 2020 Canadian survey by Seqirus found that 73 per cent of employees want to have flu vaccines available at their workplace. Immunization clinics are a cost-effective way for employees to receive a flu shot, and the topic of an upcoming webinar: Avoiding workplace outbreaks: Protecting your employees against influenza.

Providing an onsite immunization clinic for employees needs certain elements to make it successful. Unfortunately, one of the biggest mistakes employers make is not planning early enough. Experts recommend starting discussions with senior leadership in the spring to determine important elements such as whether partnering with an immunization provider is necessary and what is involved in setting up an onsite clinic. This allows an employer to secure a date for the clinic before the flu season begins in the autumn.

Partnering with an immunization clinic provider is usually the most convenient option. This ensures the safe and comprehensive delivery of service by experienced healthcare professionals and brings to the table one of the two keys to success on an excellent workplace influenza immunization program — good clinic management. The other key is effective planning and communication, including internal communication, appointment reminders, and educational posters that ensure employees are aware of onsite clinics.

Seqirus, a global influenza vaccine manufacturing and research company, will be presenting a free webinar, “Avoiding workplace outbreaks: Protecting Your Employees Against Influenza” on July 27, 2021 @ 12:00 p.m. (ET). For more information on this webinar, HR professionals can register here.

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