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Keeping staff healthy

Duane Johnson
djohnson@nnbw.biz
A woman gets administered a vaccination.
COURTESY/IMMUNIZE NEVADA |

With the flu coming up, one local nonprofit is making a priority to encourage businesses to incorporate vaccination as part of its benefits package.

According to Heidi S. Parker, executive director for Immunize Nevada, a local nonprofit that promotes immunization from preventable diseases, says making sure employees get vaccinations are not only good health practice for a business but can increase their bottom line.

Statistics provided by Staples Flu Center and the Center for Disease Control’s Business and Employer Flu Information Center say 111 million work days are lost due to flu absences every year in the U.S. That can cost companies roughly $7 billion in costs from sick days and lost productivity.

With flu season in the fall and winter months approaching, Parker wants to educate companies about onsite vaccinations for employees.

“We really work with partnering up businesses with a provider who can come on-site and can vaccinate their employees,” Parker said. “Vaccinations are a fairly low-cost way to keep employees healthy and we highly recommend companies get them done.”

Parker says onsite vaccinations can depend on whether that business has an insurance plan. Sometimes employers may already have a healthcare insurance plan in place but need to inquire if vaccinations are a part of their plan.

If a business either doesn’t have a provider or if vaccinations are not a part of a healthcare plan, Immunize Nevada will partner with a local immunization clinic or medical retailer Walgreen’s, for example, has voucher programs for employees.

“We have group of providers we know are available and try to match-make with employers,” Parker said.

The best scenario is that vaccinations are provided by the employer or a health plan, so there is no cost to an employee.

Parker says various healthcare providers such as United Healthcare have offered vaccinations in the past.

Providers can accommodate any size of a company although they usually prefer a minimum of 25-50 employees to perform onsite vaccinations. Providers usually have enough supplies to support large companies.

“Flu vaccinations are a covered benefit under ACA plans as long as the provider is under a covered network,” Parker said. “It is important that employees understand that is often a benefit they can take advantage of.

Along with information on vaccinations, Immunize Nevada provides education on what employers can do in their workplace to keep workers free from sickness.

Simple measures such as making sure employees wash their hands and use hand sanitizer are ways workers can avoid spreading germs. Parker noted there are other subtle changes employers can make such as trash cans that can be opened with a foot lever so employees can avoid touching them and come in contact with germs.

“These things are so simple, but they can contribute to a healthy workplace,” Parker said.

Immunize Nevada promotes their anti-flu campaigns through online toolkits or posters for companies to display around the office.

Parker said the nonprofits tries to spread the message too, it is best to encourage workers to stay home when they are sick. She says often employees are often scared to stay home for fear of losing wages. But she adds the spreads of germs can cause more employees to get sick and impact a company bottom line

Immunize Nevada started in 1995 after a measles outbreak forced the formation of local coalitions to address health issues.

To promote itself, Immunize Nevada has developed social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to spread its message.

Immunize Nevada has offices in Reno and Las Vegas and has vaccination and education programs for all age groups from infants to senior citizens along with outreach programs for those in rural areas of the state. For details on Immunize Nevada, call 775-624-7117, or go online at http://www.immunizenevada.org.