Has your organization ever considered hosting a flu shot clinic to provide employees with free vaccinations? Safety professionals and business leaders responsible for protecting the health and well-being of their employees may want to give it some thought.
The Burden of the Flu
Flu season typically runs from October to May each year, with reported cases peaking between December and February. During the 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC reports that nearly 50 million people displayed symptomatic cases of the flu. The result was over 20 million doctor’s visits and nearly one million hospitalizations.
According to NIOSH estimates, the flu results in an average of 17 million missed workdays each year. This comes at a cost of approximately $7 billion in sick days and lost time. Anyone who has experienced the flu spreading through a workplace can appreciate the impact it has on productivity and morale.
If you’re interested in more information on the flu season and flu vaccine itself, check out the “The Dreaded Flu Season” episode of So I Married a Scientist, a weekly science podcast hosted by me and my wife. We discuss the flu season and common misperceptions about the flu shot.
Options for Protecting Your Employees
While some companies may simply be unaware of the possible service offerings, many organizations intentionally choose not to get involved in the flu vaccination process. These organizations typically cite the following reasons for not hosting a flu shot clinic:
- Individual Health Insurance Coverage
Let’s breakdown each of these reasons.
Cost: As discussed in more detail below, hosting a flu shot clinic costs roughly $30-50 per employee being vaccinated. While this may seem like a significant financial investment (especially for large employers), this cost should be weighed against the potential productivity loss that could result from widespread illness in the workplace.
Time: While the flu shot clinic may take a few hours to a couple days depending on the size of the organization, the vaccination itself only takes a few minutes per employee. For this reason, a well-coordinated clinic only requires 5-10 minutes of “downtime” for each employee.
Individual Health Insurance Coverage: It’s true that many company-sponsored and private insurance provides offer free flu shots as a covered, preventative measure. However, the CDC reports that only about 40% of adults receive the flu shot each year. While the reasons vary, convenience is a likely contributing factor. For reference, the employer-hosted flu shot clinics I’ve participated in have had a 50-80% participation rate. And keep in mind that this number doesn’t include individuals who get the shot on their own from a pharmacy clinic or their doctor.
Hosting a Flu Shot Clinic
Given the considerations above, you may find yourself interested in hosting an employer-sponsored flu shot clinic. These programs are typically well-attended and are viewed as great wellness benefits.
From past experience (and after conducting an informal poll of providers for this article), I’ve been able to get a decent sense of the rates and requirements for hosting a flu clinic in the workplace. That said, the availability and rates may vary in your area.
Here are the details:
- Cost per dose: $25-40
- Additional hourly rate per nurse: $75-150
- Doses administered per nurse per hour: 15-25
- Total cost per employee: ~$30-50
- Minimum doses or nurse hours: Varies by provider
A well-coordinated flu shot clinic can typically vaccinate 15-25 employees per nurse per hour. Given the hourly rates and cost per dose, this generally results in a total cost per individual dose of between $30 and $50. As mentioned above, this cost can easy pay for itself by maintaining stable productivity in the long run.
When scheduling a flu shot clinic, make sure to discuss whether the provider requires a minimum number of nurse hours or administered doses. In my experience, it’s more common to see a minimum number required nurse hours. Regardless, it’s important to ensure enough doses are available for interested employees, and it’s also worth getting an estimate of the number of doses that can be administered per hour.
Note: Having the waivers and wellness checklists available for employees to complete while waiting in line will greatly improve the efficiency of the process.
The other key to success is advertising the clinic to your employees in advance and making sure the scheduled time doesn’t conflict with any big meetings or outings. I typically start advertising a week in advance and encourage groups to schedule the clinic for mid-morning.
Coordinating with Your Company’s Health Insurance Provider
Employers with company health insurance programs may be able to get a discounted or free clinics through their insurance provider. While this option may not be available for every organization, it’s a win-win scenario when possible.
Some national health insurance providers may be difficult to coordinate with. Conversely, you may find that local insurance companies already have programs in place through relationships with local hospitals or Occupational Health Providers. If you’re unsure about hosting a clinic or have a tight budget, this may be a good place to start.
Referring Employees to an Occupational Health Clinic
If you’re interested in providing the vaccine, but don’t want to commit to an onsite clinic, another option is to simply refer your employees to a nearby Occupational Health Clinic.
While this is an option, I mention it last because it tends to be the least effective strategy overall. This is because using an off-site Occupational Health Provider tends to:
- Result in more employee downtime
- Decreases overall participation
- Still cost the employer a fee per dose
However, if this is the only option in your area, it’s still worth considering.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
Regardless of which option you choose, it’s important to allow enough time to schedule and hold the clinic. It takes about two weeks following the flu shot for individuals to build immunity against the virus. For this reason, companies need to plan ahead and vaccinate employees before the flu makes its way around the office.
Since flu season starts in October and can peak by December, flu shot clinics should be scheduled no later than mid-October to early November. I find that most clinics are held in early-October, but providers in most areas start providing the service in early-September.
Hosting a flu shot clinic may not seem like a high priority in the grand scheme of workplace safety. However, offering vaccinations can go a long way toward protecting employee health, safeguarding productivity, and maintaining morale. Well-run, efficient clinics are popular with employees and make great additions to any safety program.
It’s never too early to start planning a flu shot clinic for your organization. If you have any questions or would like help coordinating with an Occupational Health Provider in your area, feel free to reach out at email@example.com or by using the contact us form at spotlightsafetyinc.com/contact-us/.