Overcoming flu vaccination reluctance

Thursday , 9 April 2015 by Aimee Bourke

While research shows that 40% of New Zealand businesses offer free or subsidised flu vaccinations to employees this time of year, HR professionals say persuading staff to participate is the biggest challenge.

Vicki Caisley, Southern Cross Health Society’s Head of People and Talent, says fear of needles may be a contributing factor.

“Studies show that up to 25% of adults have a fear of needles that developed in childhood, and it’s believed that around 10% of the population avoids needle procedures and dental care because of needle phobia,” she says.

As such, Caisley says organisers should take care around the language used to communicate flu vaccinations.

“Negative words like ‘shot’ and ‘jab’ really don’t help. Instead trying using more positive words such as ‘inoculation’ or ‘preventative’. It’s also important that people who do feel anxiety about the vaccination feel comfortable expressing so, without being told they are being silly or to harden up.”

Ensuring that staff are fully informed about the procedure itself and feel comfortable expressing any anxiety is all crucial to successful uptake.

Caisley also says misconceptions and misinformation can also put staff off.

“The most effective way to combat this is to inform and educate staff. For example, it’s really common to hear employees say that the vaccination can cause the flu, or that only the very young and old need to be vaccinated.”

Fact-based evidence can be shared with the workforce through posters or pamphlets in lunchrooms, articles on the intranet or sent by email says Caisley, who also points out that it’s vital to lead by example.

“Where possible, make sure that managers are either first in line to be vaccinated or that it is public knowledge they are signing up.”

Southern Cross’ annual health survey carried out in September 2014 by TNS. The online survey included 2,021 New Zealanders weighted to be representative of the New Zealand over 15 population by age, gender and region.