Each year, influenza poses a tremendous burden on working adults and the many businesses that employ them, contributing to absenteeism and lost productivity. Yet, annual influenza immunization rates remain very low. New data out on November 9 shows that employer-sponsored influenza vaccination programs held early in the flu season not only protect employee health, but save businesses money.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, who presented the findings at the American Public Health Association’s 138th Annual Meeting & Exposition in Denver, developed an economic model to suggest that not only should employers get their employees vaccinated, they should do so as early as possible.

Using historic influenza data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and wage data from the U.S. Department of Labor, the models show that getting an employee immunized in November instead of December can save an employer between $63 and $95 per person. Vaccinating an entire firm of 150 employees earlier could save a business between $9,450 and $14,250. The potential cost savings of influenza immunization drop dramatically for vaccination after December.

“Employers have huge incentives to solve this widespread public health problem with timely vaccination,” said Rachel Bailey, MPH, lead researcher of the study. “Even though sponsoring workplace vaccination may appear expensive, the cost savings provided by preventing influenza-associated absenteeism with vaccination programs early in the influenza season more than compensates.”