- One third of 1,200 Americans in a Stericycle survey don't plan on getting a flu shot this year, despite reports from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that 2017 was highly severe. Conducted by PollFish, the study assessed consumers' concerns and habits surrounding influenza.
- The report found that 77% of respondents wash their hands more frequently, get vaccinated, wear surgical masks in public or take other preventive measures to prevent catching the flu. Almost two thirds of respondents said they fear catching the flu, about the same amount of people who said they plan to get vaccinated this year. The survey showed that there are more respondents worried about giving the flu to a child or vulnerable family member than there are concerned about missing work/pay, feeling ill or dying.
- The report also found that half of respondents said they think that flu shots are effective and that the majority of those surveyed said they prefer to be vaccinated by their physician.
Last year's flu season was the worst in 10 years, according to the CDC. No one knows how severe the illness will prove this winter, but the CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get vaccinated.
Employers may want to maintain healthy work environments, but they should remember that legal trouble might await those that make the flu shot mandatory. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued an employer with discrimination for refusing to hire a worker whose religion prevented her from getting vaccinated. The EEOC settled another religious-based lawsuit for $89,000 for firing workers who refused to get flu shots.
Employers can still encourage workers to be vaccinated. Many employers mitigate the flu's impact on their workplaces by offering on-site vaccinations, allowing workers to get flu shots during the work day and initiating education campaigns to stop the spread of germs. Employers can also encourage employees with the flu or flu-like symptoms to stay home to prevent the spread of illnesses to coworkers. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., the 2017-2018 flu season was estimated to cost employers $21 billion in lost productivity. Encouraging flu shots without making them mandatory (except in limited circumstances), persuading sick workers to stay home and making the vaccine available on-site, if possible, could be the most effective means of preventing the spread of the virus.