Free flu jabs are bosses' choice

Flu vaccinations are good idea but employers should not be pressured into providing them free for staff, the Employers and Manufacturers Association says.

A particularly nasty flu strain – H3N2 – is sweeping through the US and is linked to the deaths of 20 children so far. 

Health officials expect the virus to reach New Zealand.

Director of New Zealand's World Health Organisation national influenza centre Dr Sue Huang says in a statement H3N2 is a particular concern for very old and very young people.

"We need to monitor the situation closely. The H3N2 strain, causing high level of hospitalisations in the USA, especially in New York, may potentially cause problems for New Zealand's coming winter."

Dr Huang says the problems in the US seem to be a result of lower vaccine uptake.

Canterbury's medical officer of health, Alistair Humphrey, is encouraging employers to offer free vaccinations for staff.

The EMA's David Lowe says many employers already offer free vaccinations.

"Some cover the cost, others just make it available and someone comes into the office so people don't have to go to the doctor.

"It's a win-win situation. The employee stays well so they're happy with that, and there is reduced absenteeism." 

He says the EMA encourages employers to at least think about offering free vaccinations, but it would not go as far as calling for all businesses to offer them.

"Businesses have got a lot of priorities they need to balance. Choices have to be made as to where businesses invest their money.

"Flu vaccinations are good thing to be offering, but there are other good things to offer as well and it's not for anyone to tell a particular businesses that a flu vaccination is better to offer over anything else."

callison@nbr.co.nz

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