Limited H1N1 vaccination planned

Companies are concerned that sick time resulting from Influenza A H1N1 could cost them billions Employees will not be getting a free vaccination from their bosses for Influenza A H1N1 this winter, according to the National Board of Health. It...

Employees will not be getting a free vaccination from their bosses for Influenza A H1N1 this winter, according to the National Board of Health.

It is common among larger Danish companies to offer vaccines for staff for the regular seasonal flu, but the new pandemic strain does not yet have a vaccine available.

When the first vaccines against H1N1 become available this autumn, the health board said they will not be available for private purchase as there are other groups in more urgent need of vaccination.

‘We have chosen to focus on chronically ill individuals and health personnel, as well as a few other key public figrures,’ Board of Health spokeswoman Else Smith told public broadcaster DR.

The board’s priorities are in line with those of the World Health Organisation, which announced yesterday that the spread of H1N1 is ‘unstoppable’ and recommended that health workers be first in line for vaccines, followed by other critical groups as determined by each country.

Denmark has already ordered 3.1 million doses of the new vaccine, which will be enough to vaccinate 1.55 million people. The first batch of vaccine is expected to arrive by the start of October.

In addition to health care workers and nursing staff, those with lung and cardiac conditions, diabetes, and weakened immune systems will also be vaccinated. The Board of Health estimates there are around 750,000 Danes that are particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Smith said that it will be 2010 before all of the state-ordered vaccines have arrived.

Denmark has reported 73 cases Influenza A so far, but all have displayed mild symptoms and responded to treatments. However experts predict that as many as one in four could be hit by the virus. That figure has industry leaders worriedly counting the cost of a large-scale outbreak.

The Confederation of Danish Employers has run the numbers and fears that with more than a million infected people, sick leave days will increase by 2.1 million compared to an average year, resulting in a loss of 3.3 billion kroner for the economy.

‘This is coming at a really inconvenient time where many companies are already badly hit by the financial crisis. It would be extremely serious if large sections of production were shut down because of an epidemic,’ said Christine Jøker Nissen, of the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI).

DI recommends that employers create an emergency preparedness plan, which would allow for more employees to work from home, replace business trips with conference calls and launch workplace hygiene campaigns to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

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