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1 in 5 Health Care Workers Skip Flu Vaccine


As a health care worker, do you feel educated about the flu vaccine?

As you walk through the halls of your hospital, clinic or practice, do you know which co-workers are protected from the flu and which ones are not? Chances are, one out of every five health care workers will opt to skip the flu vaccine this year, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In some health care facilities, the percentage of those who are not vaccinated against the flu will be even higher, approaching nearly half of the permanent and temporary staff. You may think, “That’s their business,” but those who decide to go unprotected can put others at risk.

Health care personnel who get flu shots can lower the odds of patients contracting the flu from doctors, nurses and other clinicians, and reduce flu-related complications and deaths among health care workers and their patients, the authors of the CDC report said. It can also protect your family members and friends back home.

[Flu season means more travel respiratory jobs with Med Travelers.]

CDC epidemiologist Carla Black and her team analyzed data from the last two flu seasons in the study, which appeared in the September 30 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. During the 2015-2016 flu season, the average number of health care workers who reported being vaccinated went up slightly to 79%, compared to 77% the previous year.

Vaccination rates during the 2015-2016 flu season varied by work environment:
•    Hospitals--91% of healthcare staff received flu vaccines
•    Clinics--80% of healthcare staff received flu vaccines
•    Nursing homes & long-term care facilities--69% of healthcare staff received flu vaccines

Even though vaccination rates for health care workers went up slightly, the overall rates of influenza vaccination appear to be dropping, which could make this flu season tougher. CDC officials report that vaccination coverage declined 1.5% across the entire U.S. population during the 2015-2016 season, with only 46% of Americans receiving the annual flu vaccine.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that the most effective way of ensuring health care workers get vaccinated is to make it a requirement. In facilities that mandated flu shots for workers, they found 97% compliance. Vaccination rates dropped to just 45% in health care facilities where vaccination wasn't required of employees.

To ensure health care workers are vaccinated, the CDC recommends educating employees about the benefits of vaccinations, promoting vaccinations and providing free flu shots at convenient times for staff. 

For more information:
•    Get the CDC’s 2016-2017 influenza vaccination recommendations.
•    Check out the CDC’s #FightFlu social media stream, including the #FightFlu Twitter campaign.
•    Visit the Health Professionals page at Flu.Gov, from the Dept. of Health & Human Services.

Check out Med Travelers’ News & Resources for more on what’s trending in allied health.

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