Four times as many flu vaccines have already been ordered by employers in Belgium, compared to figures from last year, according to the business services consultancy Liantis.
At the root of the growth is the coronavirus. Not only has the pandemic raised awareness of infectious disease among the public, but the words ‘flu’ and ‘vaccine’ have been written and spoken constantly.
And half of all orders received so far have come from the health care sector. “The sector wants to avoid having people contract the flu in case there’s a second wave of coronavirus,” Liantis said.
More and more companies are opting for a collective vaccination programme for their staff, especially risk groups such as the over-65s, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions like diabetes – as well as those who live under the same roof with risk group members.
Another risk group, this time because of their job, is made up of health care workers.
Employers see the benefit of offering flu vaccinations in the bottom line. “The costs of vaccination are much lower than the costs associated with sick leave,” Liantis says.
The peak season for flu is from about October on, until April at the latest. However many employers are getting their orders in early, and there are more of them in general. Meanwhile 48% of all orders so far have come from the health sector.
“In this sector, staff come into frequent contact with fragile patients, so it is logical they want to protect themselves and their patients,” said Sylvia Vanden Avenne, a medical expert with Liantis.
That would be the case with or without a second wave of Covid-19, but she is convinced that is on its way.
“The only questions are when and on what scale. And if there is also an influenza epidemic this winter, that will represent a huge challenge for the health care sector. We therefore intend to support them as much as possible in order to vaccinate their colleagues.”
Some flu vaccine facts and figures:
• Seasonal flu affects some 5-10% of the Belgian population every year. • Someone with flu is contagious from one day before symptoms appear until 5-7 days after. • One infected person can infect 1.3 others on average. • A flu infection can keep an employee off work for 5-10 days. • The cost to an employer of a collective vaccination is €20.95 per person vaccinated.