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Posts Tagged ‘flu shots’

What to expect this flu shot season (2010/ 2011)

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Clearly, the 2009/2010 flu season was an unusual one.  The sudden appearance of H1N1, the lack of a vaccine, the decision to manufacture a vaccine and then its’ delayed arrival, all lead to a flu vaccination season like no other.  What’s on the horizon for the 2010/2011 flu vaccination season?  It may be early to say but we know the following:

1.  H1N1 is one of the three strains to be included in the seasonal flu vaccine.

2.  Vaccine prices have gone up.

3.  Nursing costs have also increased.

The WHO delivered the strains to the manufacturers on time but it is too soon to know how well the strains are growing.  We’ll get early reports from the manufacturers in about two weeks at the CDC/ AMA National Flu Vaccination Summit.

Last year, we saw the highest uptake of seasonal flu vaccine in history with nearly 40% of the US population getting their seasonal flu shots.  Let’s see if we can’t build on that this year.

What’s new with flu this week

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Flu continues to receive a great deal of media coverage and sometimes it is hard to figure out why the media covers one story and glosses over others. Here are what we think were the most important flu stories of this past week and our comments on them:

1. A small study from Mexico showed that individuals who received seasonal flu shots and contracted H1N1 flu had a significantly lower mortality rate. In fact, none of the critically ill patients in the study who had received a seasonal flu shot died while 34% of those critically ill patients who had not received a seasonal flu shot did. We will have more and better US data, hopefully validating this study , within the next week or two.

This study’s findings were directly opposite from the findings from a small Canadian study several weeks ago.

2. The shortage of seasonal flu vaccine is widespread. Unlike other flu shot seasons, it will not resolve itself over time.

In past flu seasons when there were vaccine delays or shortages, the manufacturers would continue to make vaccine as long as necessary. This year, they have converted their production lines over to H1N1 production lines and are no longer manufacturing seasonal flu vaccine. There are always vaccine “losses” when vials are filled after their lots are approved by the FDA. This year, those fill losses are three times normal which adds to the shortage (that one has received nearly no media coverage).

As a result, most retail flu clinics (like those in Costcos and CVS pharmacies) will be ending weeks ahead of schedule as they run out of vaccine.

3. There appears to be a renewed shortage of hand sanitizer. Don’t wait until you are out before re-ordering because there are back orders.

4. Flu activity is now present in all 50 states with high activity reported in 37 states.

5. Flu “burnout” is our newest concern. Dr. Anne Schuchat from the CDC reports that we will likely see flu activity levels similar to this week’s for the next seven months (until the end of traditional flu season). Remaining vigilant for that long of a period of time will be challenging for most businesses. As we hear how different clients and employers are creatively addressing ways to prevent flu burnout, we’ll pass them along.

Would you take a Swine flu shot?

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The other day a reporter called with questions about employees and H1N1 vaccination.  After explaining that we do not think that swine flu shots will be available on the open market and therefore not available for employees, he asked the question we’d be waiting for -  Would you take a swine flu shot?

The answer is:  Probably not.  I’ll explain.  First, I may have already had the swine flu.  About twelve weeks ago, while eating dinner one night, I became extremely tired – tired enough that I asked my husband to drive my car home.  By the following morning, I had a sore throat, bad cough, headache and generally overall achiness – but not fever.  At that point, the experts (my friends at the CDC and AMA) were telling everyone that H1N1 flu had a fever of 101.5 or higher.  As I slept away the weekend, I took my temperature frequently.  It never inched above 98.6.  By Sunday morning, my daughter (who is asthmatic) had similar symptoms and my pediatrician advised starting her on Tamiflu.  I recovered by Monday afternoon.  My daughter, on Tamiflu, was sick less than twenty four hours.

But back to the question, why am I not planning on taking a swine flu shot even though I am considered high priority to receive one (as a healthcare professional).  Well… there are quite a few reasons. 

REason #1:  the last time we gave Swine flu shots in the US (1976), the outcome wasn’t great.  Every single release and consent for a seasonal flu shot talks about Guillaume Barre Syndrome – that warning is directly related to the Swine flu vaccine given in 1976.

Reason #2: This vaccine is being rushed to market – without some of the kinds of testing that we have deemed necessary for safe vaccine production.

Reason #3:  At this point, H1N1 flu just isn’t that bad.  Nearly every one of our clients have had employees become ill with H1N1 flu.  Although recently there was one death, hundreds of employees got sick, were sick for about two days, took another day or two to bounce back and came back to work.  At this point (at least until if and when it mutates), it is a fairly mild flu. 

Is my advice that no one should take a swine flu shot?  No.  Speak to your pediatrician or personal physician.  Evaluate your risks (pregnant women appear to be at higher risk for complications and hospitalization).  Watch to see if this flu seems to become more severe.  And make your own informed decision. 

There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a pandemic.  It just seems to be, at this point, less than the worst case scenario.  Let’s hope it stays that way.

The Big Question: What to expect this flu shot season

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Needless to say, while many flu experts were not surprised by the emergence of a flu pandemic, a majority of the rest of us were.  Yes, we’d been hearing we were overdue for one. We’d been advised to draft pandemic plans. Byt there was not real sense of urgency.  There is now!
There are several aspects of this situation that are surprising, even to the flu experts.

What to expect this flu shot season

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

It's looking as though supply won't be as limited as in recent years past.Around this time of year every year, we start to get calls from our corporate clients asking us what to expect this flu shot season.  And nearly every year, we have different answers from the previous year.

The good news….

There are more manufacturers and much more vaccine being produced this year than in previous years.  Upwards of 150 million doses should be available between August 1st and November 30th. The price of flu vaccine is up too, although much less than in other flu seasons.  We’ve seen increases averaging 10% in past years. This year, prices are up only slightly (although nursing and shipping costs are up). More… Advances in flu vaccine manufacturing, moving away from egg-based manufacturing to newer cell technologies are moving forward.  Flu vaccine is still generally reliant upon the availability of sterile eggs (used as the medium in which the strains are grown).  The newer cell technologies don’t require eggs, are much more targeted in strain selection and eliminate the allergy concerns for those allergic to eggs. (more…)

Employees and Flu shots

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

This week, SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, released the findings from it January 2008 poll of members regarding employee flu shots.  And overall, their news was good.   They found that: 

  • 59 percent of employers offered free flu shots to employees – up 5% from last year
  • 52 percent of employers made hand sanitizers, tissues and other items that help prevent the spread of flu available to employees – up from only 2% the previous year. 
  • Most importantly, a full one third of employers sent sick employee home vs. only 20% in 2007.

That’s progress!

 The CDC – AMA National Flu Summit meets the second week in May in Atlanta.  The medical professionals attending are very concerned that this past year’s flu season, with a less effective vaccine than past years, will discourage employers from offering flu shots this year and employees from taking flu shots. 

Walgreens takes over the on-site employee health business

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

In an aggressive move, Walgreens bought not just one but both national providers of on- site employee health clinics. These two acquisitions will make up the cornerstones of Walgreen’s new Health and Wellness Division. This is an interesting move that HR and Benefits Managers and occupational health professionals will be closely watching.


A nasty flu season

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

You’ve already heard that this is a nasty flu season. What makes this flu season so nasty – particularly for employers? Is there anything you can do about it now? Several employers a day are calling to talk about:

  • widespread employee absences
  • a cacophony of sneezing and coughing
  • delayed projects and lower productivity


We’ve reached the peak of flu season and it is a nasty one. This flu season is as nasty as it is in part because it arrived slightly later than usual which always makes it worse. Then, we found that there is a poor match between the vaccine and the main strain of flu that is circulating.  Is there anything an employer can do at this point? Yes! It may be too late for flu shots to be cost effective but: (more…)