The corporate flu vaccination season is winding down – fortunately, a relatively uneventful year with vaccine in plentiful supply, no recalls or distribution hiccups and a good match between the strains and the low level of flu that is circulating. Early reports indicate that fewer employees received flu shots in the workplace this year – for varying reasons. In some cases, there are fewer employees. In other cases, the cost of flu shots were prohibitive. And finally, some employers turned to alternative sources for flu shots like local pharmacies and encouraged employees to see their shots (through their health plans) through those retailers. Participation in those programs was up significantly (roughly double last year’s numbers) but it will take several months to analyze data and determine if employees made that extra effort to go elsewhere for a flu shot. Work site flu shots are easy and quick which often encourages those who might not otherwise get one to get in line on the way to lunch or the next meeting.
The widespread introduction of “flu cards” this season – the occupational health equivalent of a gift card for a flu shot – has been well received; despite the higher costs associated with them. Where flu vouchers in the past had redemption rates hovering as low as 10%, redemption rates on flu cards are averaging 30% or higher. We’ll definitely be seeing those programs grow in coming flu vaccination seasons.
So far, the flu season itself has been mild. There is low level flu activity nationwide. Upcoming holiday travel will provide a convenient vehicle for transmission and we’re sure to see higher flu activity in the coming weeks.