Did Your Doc Get a Flu Shot?

Influenza vaccination rates of healthcare workers up slightly from last flu season

(RxWiki News) Doctors often tell their patients to get the flu shot. But how many healthcare professionals are taking that step themselves?

A new study examined the rates of healthcare workers in the US receiving vaccinations against influenza.

The results showed an increase of vaccination coverage levels among healthcare personnel during the 2012-2013 flu season, with an estimated 72 percent of these workers getting vaccinated.

"Talk to your doctor about vaccine safety."

"Routine influenza vaccination of healthcare personnel every influenza season can reduce influenza-related illness and its potentially serious consequences among healthcare personnel and their patients," explained the authors of this new study, who were led by Sarah W. Ball, ScD (Doctor of Science), of Abt Associates Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

To study coverage levels, Dr. Ball and colleagues conducted an online survey of 1,944 healthcare providers during the first half of April 2013. Results were compared with those of similar surveys that explored healthcare personnel vaccinations during the previous two flu seasons.

Healthcare personnel were people who worked in healthcare settings or were likely to have contact with patients, including physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, technicians, aids, administrators, janitors, food service workers and housekeepers. 

The researchers found that, overall, 72 percent of healthcare personnel surveyed received an influenza vaccine during the 2012-2013 season, an increase from the 66.9 percent seen during the 2011-2012 season and the 63.5 percent seen during the 2010-2011 season.

Among healthcare personnel who worked in settings with vaccination requirements, coverage was higher than overall rates, at 96.5 percent. The coverage was 76.9 percent among healthcare personnel who worked in a setting where vaccination was promoted, but not required, and coverage was 50.4 percent among those whose workplaces neither required nor promoted vaccination.

Healthcare personnel who worked in settings that offered on-site, no-cost vaccination also had coverage levels higher than the overall — 75.7 percent when vaccinations were offered for one day and 86.2 percent when vaccinations were offered for multiple days. By comparison, vaccination coverage was 55.3 percent among healthcare personnel whose workplace did not offer this option.

Hospital-based healthcare personnel had the highest coverage levels, with 83.1 percent, and healthcare personnel at long-term care facilities (LTCF) had the lowest coverage, with 58.9 percent. Though this LTCF coverage was up from 2011-2012 (52.0 percent), it still was lower than its peak during the 2010-2011 season (64.4 percent).

"Influenza vaccination of healthcare personnel in this setting is extremely important given that influenza vaccine effectiveness is generally lowest in the elderly, making vaccination of close contacts even more critical," wrote Dr. Ball and colleagues.

The study authors noted that this was a small, opt-in study population that might not be representative of the approximately 18 million healthcare personnel in the US. Furthermore, vaccinations were self-reported and not verified by medical records.

However, Dr. Ball and colleagues concluded, "Influenza vaccination of healthcare personnel in all health care settings might be increased by providing 1) healthcare personnel with information on vaccination benefits and risks for themselves and their patients, 2) vaccinations in the workplace at convenient locations and times, and 3) influenza vaccinations at no cost."

The US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that all healthcare personnel be vaccinated against the flu every flu season, the study authors noted.

This study was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on September 26. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
September 26, 2013