Background: Influenza vaccinations are currently advocated only for individuals over age 50. However, vaccination of all working-age people may be warranted based on reduced absenteeism from work.
Objective: This study aims to quantify the association between lost workdays and influenza, controlling for other factors. A secondary aim of the study is to assess the net benefit of expanded vaccination in a workplace setting.
Research design: Multivariate regression analyses of the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Household Component are used to estimate the number of workdays missed because of influenza-like illness (ILI) when controlling for other health, demographic, and employment factors. Mean productivity costs are measured in terms of absences from work and valued in dollar terms. The net benefit of influenza vaccination is estimated using a simple decision analysis.
Subjects and measures: Health, demographic, and employment data for employed individuals between the ages of 22 and 64 years are analyzed.
Results: The average number of workdays missed due to ILI was 1.30 days, and the average work loss was valued at 137 US dollars per person. The vaccine strategy was not preferred in the baseline analysis; however, this result was sensitive to assumptions regarding the incidence of influenza, the cost of delivering the vaccine, and the productivity impact of worker absenteeism. Moreover, nonproductivity benefits of vaccination were omitted.
Conclusions: The economic attractiveness of expanded investment in influenza vaccination hinges on employer- and population-specific assumptions. Our analysis provides a simple framework within which competing considerations of disease epidemiology, worker productivity, and economic cost may be weighed.