Flu vaccine shortage could leave U.S. economy feeling sick

Impact on productivity could cost $20 billion U.S.

The shortage of flu vaccines in the United States could cost its economy as much as $20 billion US in lost productivity, according to one estimate. That’s double the impact the flu has in a typical year, depending on the severity of the outbreak, according to an Associated Press report.

David Cutler, a health economist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., said the average worker misses about one to one-and-a-half days each year because of the flu. That rate could double because of the shortage of flu vaccines in the U.S.

The shortage is due to the loss of about 47 million vaccines that were set to be shipped from the United Kingdom. British regulators said the vaccines weren’t safe to use and U.S. officials agreed.

According to a survey done in June for the Society of Human Resource Management, 60 per cent of companies said they would hold flu clinics for employees this year. But according to the AP report many organizations have now shelved the idea of inoculating employees in order to free up more vaccines for the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions.

According to ComPsych Corporation, a Chicago-based consulting firm, the impact on workers and employers could be significant. In past years it found that employees who were vaccinated missed significantly less time than those who weren’t.

It found that only seven per cent of employees who took the vaccine missed work due to illness, while 40 per cent of workers who were not vaccinated were off the job for their own flu sickness.

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