That coughing and wheezing you hear from the next office is a sign that it's flu season once again. That means it's time to get your flu shot. While nobody wants to get sick, getting influenza has some serious financial repercussions outside of a fever and running nose. Hearing what those costs entail should make you think twice about not being vaccinated this year. Here is a breakdown of the opportunity costs of getting the flu versus getting the proper vaccine.
Big Time Costs down the Chain
Most people are skeptical about getting an annual flu vaccine. After all, the vaccine is a cocktail of most likely influenza virus strains that will be most prevalent during the flu season. It's an educated calculation, so the vaccine is not a guarantee that you won't get the flu. Also, some people feel healthy and believe that their chance of contracting the flu is minimal. Then there are stories of how the flu shot gave someone the flu or how it simply does not work.
However, the financial costs of getting the virus should give consumers pause and rethink about being vaccinated. First, the average cost of getting a flu shot is $35 per person, which is often covered by health insurance, and is readily available from local health departments, physicians and drug stores such as Walgreens. Overall, this cost is trivial when compared to what contracting the flu could cost you.
First, roughly $87.1 billion is taken out of the U.S. economy each year due to influenza, with businesses feeling the brunt of $16.3 billion annually. While you may not feel bad about your place of work losing money, that $16 billion, especially in a shaky economy, can mean the difference between being employed and applying for welfare. Last year, Americans missed more than 70 million workdays due to the flu.
Then there are the direct costs to you the consumer. The average person with health insurance can expect to pay over $130 fighting the disease. Without insurance, someone could pay more than $100 to just to see a physician. While walk-in clinics can provide some price breaks on doctor visits, the cost is still high.
If the flu is caught early enough, a doctor may recommend an anti-viral medication like Tamiflu and Relenza. The medicines are only given within the first 48 hours of the flu. There is currently no generic version of Tamiflu, and for those without insurance its cost is over $100 per 10-day dose. Individuals may also incur the cost of over-the-counter (OTC) medication and remedies as well, depending on how severe the flu symptoms are. This includes items such as tissues, cough medications, Tylenol and other items needed to help relieve some of the severe symptoms of the virus. Depending on how sick you are, this can range anywhere from $5 to $80. About one-third of flu sufferers will spend between $250 and $1,000 on recovery efforts.
Furthermore, while you're spending money to fight the virus, you could also be losing income as well. Without an adequate sick time balance, that could mean a loss of some big wages. Overall, the average person loses $92 a year in wages due to the flu. This could even be more if you a need a hospital stay to fight the virus, which is also a possibility. Perhaps, the scariest cost statistic stemming from the flu is the cost of life. According to the Center of Disease Control, there are between 3,000 and 49,000 flu-associated deaths each year.
The Bottom Line
Don't think twice about getting your annual flu vaccine. It's a sound investment, both for your finances and your wellbeing. The paltry cost of getting the shot is nothing compared to the potential costs you could incur by contracting the virus.