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Vaccination against influenza: a five-year study in the Post Office

  • J. W. G. Smith (a1) and R. Pollard (a1)

Summary

An injection of influenza vaccine was offered to approximately 60 000 Postal and Telecommunications staff at the beginning of five successive winters. The sickness absence of this group, which included those who accepted the offer of vaccine as well as those who did not, was compared throughout the winter with that of a similar number of employees who were not offered vaccine. The two groups, ‘vaccinated’ and control, comprised the staff of nearly 400 Post Office units scattered throughout Great Britain, the units of the two groups being matched as far as practicable for numbers employed, type of work, region and type of location.

The proportion who accepted vaccine fell from 42% in the first year (when only 26 000 Telecommunications employees were offered vaccine) to 35% in the second year, and 25% by the fifth year.

With the exception of Telecommunications employees in 1972–73, the sickness absence rate of the group offered vaccine was less than that of the group not offered vaccine, and the difference was evident during the winter observation periods both when influenza was prevalent and when it was not. In the last four years of the study the average difference in sickness absence between the ‘vaccinated’ and control groups was 1.26 days per 100 employees per week during and 1.12 days outside the influenza periods. Moreover, the difference during the influenza periods was greater than could be expected from the acceptance rate of vaccine and the estimated attack rate of influenza. The apparent reduction in sickness absence of the group offered vaccine in comparison with the groupnot offered vaccine represented an appreciable saving in cost.

It is suggested than an annual influenza vaccination campaign in industry may produce financial benefit, but that only a proportion of the benefit is due to an improvement in health.

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References

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