To the chagrin of needle-phobes everywhere, the time to get your flu shot is now. Last winter, an estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications, marking the disease's highest death toll in at least 40 years, according to the AP. One of the key factors behind this staggering number was the dwindling amount of people getting their shots. And when it comes to flu shots, it’s not just a problem on an individual level — even if you get the shot yourself, if the people around you do not, it can contribute to the spread of the disease. Considering most of the average person’s days are spent at their workplace, here are some ways to convince your coworkers to get the flu shot, to help keep themselves, and everyone else around them, less at risk.
First off, arm yourself with some facts to convince your peers. The flu causes American employees to miss 17 million workdays annually, and anyone who’s had the flu knows that it isn’t exactly a fun sick day. As The Washington Post reported, less than four out of 10 adults in the United States got flu shots last winter. Everyone six months or older should be getting a yearly flu vaccine, ideally by the end of October, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If your coworker doubts the effectiveness of the shot, you can start by explaining how it works. Flu shots cause antibodies to develop in the body around two weeks post-vaccination, providing protection against infection with the viruses in the vaccine. While getting a shot doesn’t 100 percent guarantee you won’t get sick, studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of illness from anywhere between 40 and 60 percent among the general population.
Even if you still do get sick after being vaccinated, the shot can help decrease the severity and shorten the duration of your illness. "The flu shot should be a routine part of care... it's like wearing a seatbelt or an air bag, it's not perfect but it practically cuts your risk in half," Dr. Robert Jacobson, a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told BuzzFeed News.
In the face of such jarring statistics for such an avoidable phenomenon, it’ll be hard for your coworker to contest the pros to getting the shot for their own health.
If concern over their own health isn’t enough to sway your coworker, tell them that getting a shot is also for the greater good. It’s common knowledge that the flu can cause serious illness, hospitalization, and death, but populations including older adults, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions are especially susceptible to the flu, according to the CDC. Getting the shot helps keep overall levels of influenza down and help prevent it from spreading, protecting the minority of people who can't get vaccinated and the populations who are especially vulnerable to developing complications from the illness. As The Outline noted, children in areas where parents opted out of vaccinating their kids spread these (preventable) diseases faster in their communities.
Finally, show your coworkers that they’ve got options. If your workplace doesn’t offer free flu shots, they’re also available at most drug stores, including Rite Aid, Walgreens, and CVS's Minute Clinic for a low co-pay. And even though it may seem like a minor nuisance, the more people who are encouraged to get the flu shot, the better off the overall population is. At the very least, it might help them clutch onto the subway pole during their morning commute with a little more reassurance.