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Flu shots safeguard workforces from losses

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Dr. Theresa Birardi, family physician with ChristianaCare Primary Care at Claymont, does a check-up with patient Victoria Cross.

WILMINGTON — As the holiday season looms ahead and employees may be traveling to spend time with loved ones, Delaware businesses can minimize risk and maximize productivity by encouraging employees to get the flu shot today.

It’s important to get the influenza vaccine every year, but Dr. Theresa Birardi, family physician with ChristianaCare Primary Care at Claymont pointed out, with COVID-19 circulating around, the flu shot could prevent serious complications of having the both viruses at the same time.

“They both can become fairly significant respiratory illnesses with complications that require hospitalization. We don’t really know enough from a scientific perspective, about patients who had both at the same time,” Birardi told Delaware Business Times. “The flu vaccine will give you significant protection from having the flu and those complications.”

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and provide protection against the flu, and optimal times are in October and November with enough time before Thanksgiving. Each year, the flu can mutate its strain, making it important to get a shot every year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates approximately 1 in 5 people get the flu each year. The flu can be traced to $6.2 billion indirect costs each year, in lost work hours per year. 

Each year 17 million workdays are lost to flu-related illnesses, among adults ages 18 to 64 years old, according to the CDC.

With millions of workers on the frontlines during a pandemic now, Birardi says the flu shot can be businesses’ investment in their employees and to keep business moving smoothly during these turbulent times.

“Not only is it an investment in a patient’s health, but it’s certainly a good investment from an economic standpoint because it saves time and money because people who get the shot are less likely to use their sick days for getting the flu,” she said. “More importantly, it saves lives by preventing people from becoming critically ill and spreading it to vulnerable people in the community.”

When employees are sick two things are likely to happen: the employee stays home, or they come to work sick. If the employee stays home, it could create a domino effect where family members could also get the flu, and thus the employee would need more time off to take care of sick relatives.

If an employee comes to work sick with the flu, they would not be working at their optimum level and worse, could infect coworkers along the way.

To keep the workforce healthy, Birardi said that Delaware employers should consider options like drive-thru flu shot or “blitz” days where health care professionals come to the workplace. For example, ChristianaCare vaccinated 90% of its 13,000 employees across four states in a single day with its Hit Me With Your Flu Shot campaign.

But at the end of the day, Birardi said it was about leading by example, as all company culture starts at the top.

“There’s plenty of ideas out there, but really what needs to happen is clear messaging from the leadership that there’s clear economic and health reasons to get it done,” she added.

By Katie Tabeling

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