Keep your company healthy this winter

African Vaccination Week, from 24-30 April, is the perfect time to kick off a company-wide vaccine awareness programme.

As the weather cools, the workplace sniffles start. And when one person gets sick, you can be sure more will follow. Flu costs the South African economy R2billion each year, says a report by the Global Hygiene Council.

Employers can play an important role in decreasing absenteeism by establishing vaccine awareness programmes. Here’s what you should communicate:

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines are made up of small inactive parts of a virus, causing the production of anti-bodies that will fight off those viruses, says Carol Willemse, a Johannesburg-based pharmacist.

Should everyone get annual flu shots?

Flu viruses change, and every year the vaccine is adapted to the virus in circulation. The Immunization Action Coalition recommends that all adults get annual flu shots, but especially those over 65, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.

What other vaccinations should adults consider?

This is determined by factors like age, lifestyle and travel destinations. Polio and yellow fever vaccines are recommended when travelling to certain countries, for example, while all adults over 50 should get shingles vaccines, says the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC). Always contact a travel clinic before going abroad.

Can you get sick even if you were vaccinated?

The flu vaccine is made to protect against the most common strains each season, but you could still get sick from a less common strain, says Carol.

Some vaccines also wear off after a while. Pregnant women should get a whooping cough vaccine during each pregnancy, and tetanus and diphtheria vaccines should be topped up every ten years.

Who shouldn’t get vaccinated?

Some vaccines are unsafe during pregnancy, and some could cause adverse reactions in those allergic to eggs. Mention any allergies or health conditions before getting a shot.

Offering onsite vaccinations

If funding allows, an onsite flu vaccination clinic is a smart way to save your company money by decreasing absenteeism. Here’s how to make it a success:

  • Do your homework. Onsite clinic service providers have different add-ons and price points. Compare a few to decide which is the best fit for your workplace.
  • Spread the news. Use different methods to raise awareness among employees, including newsletters, email reminders, posters and direct communication through line managers.
  • Be comprehensive. Employee communication should explain how the vaccine works, what will happen when they visit the clinic, and the dangers of the flu.
  • Determine ROI. Take note of employee sick days and any incidences of respiratory illness, and compare it to previous years.

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