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1 in 3 Healthcare Workers Skip Flu Shots

On Behalf of | Oct 21, 2012 | Medical News You Can Use

Healthy People 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ most  recent 10-year agenda for improving the nation’s health, set a target that 90%  of healthcare personnel (HCP) be vaccinated against influenza by the year 2020.  Its interim goal is targeting that by 2015, 70% of HCP get the flu vaccine.

At the height of the flu pandemic in 2009, 38% of HCP did not  get vaccinated. In the 2011-12 flu season, the CDC reported that 33.1% of HCP did not  receive their flu shots.

8 Reasons Why Healthcare Workers Skip Flu Shots

1. Fear of illness or side effects caused by the vaccine “It is impossible to get the flu from the flu shot, as it is a killed vaccine. Patients can get a mild reaction for a day or two which is the antibody response,” says Andrea Sikon, M.D. Chair in Department of Internal Medicine for Cleveland Clinic.

2. The hassle factor Busy healthcare workers cite insufficient time, inconvenience, and even forgetting as reasons for skipping their flu shots. “This is so important, we will bring the vaccination cart to you, make it available in the lunch room or at the entrance to the hospital, or take whatever steps are needed to make it easy for you to get your vaccination,” says Nancy Foster, VP Quality and Patient Safety at the American Hospital Association.

3. Misperceptions about vulnerability to influenza; perceived ineffectiveness of vaccine “Our patients are particularly vulnerable because in many cases, their immune systems are weakened by disease or the treatments we are giving them.  As a healthcare worker, you have a responsibility to protect the lives of our patients.  The data are clear:  Getting a flu vaccination is an important step you can take to avoid contracting and spreading the flu to our patients,” says Nancy Foster, VP Quality and Patient Safety at the American Hospital Association.

4. “Ridiculous” fear of needles “People who opt out have a lot of different reasons, but we are in healthcare and any reason that puts our patients at risk for a simple reason of being afraid–that’s unfortunate. It’s really ridiculous,” says  Anthony W. Russell, MDPH, SAAP, and a member of the California Medical Association. Russell testified on the healthcare worker vaccination bill that was recently vetoed by the governor of California.

5. Hiding behind exemptions Along with other reasons for exemption, such as age (the vaccine is not necessary for people under 65 years old), or the lack of a doctor recommendation, Cheryl Peterson, Director of the American Nurses Association’s Practice and Policy Department, would prefer that healthcare providers “step up and do the right thing” and get vaccinated. “I just don’t think that most of these reasons–they’re just not really valid anymore. [Healthcare professionals] know what they need to do.”

6. Reliance on homeopathic measures “We are not asking you to be vaccinated as an alternative to treating your flu.  We are asking you to be vaccinated to protect our patients.  No treatments–homeopathic or otherwise–will do that,” says Nancy Foster, VP Quality and Patient Safety, American Hospital Association.

7. Belief that influenza is not a serious disease. “An estimated 36,000 Americans die each year from the flu, and on top of that, there are 100s of thousands who contract the flu and suffer fever, chills, body aches and other symptoms.  This is a serious problem,” says Nancy Foster from the American Hospital Association.

8. Lack of free vaccinations 11 states have either “offer” or “ensure” laws for influenza vaccination of healthcare providers. CA, IL, ME, MD, MA, NE, OK, and TN have “offer” laws, meaning the flu shot must be offered to HCP by healthcare facilities, though staff may decline vaccination.  AL, RI, and NH have “ensure” laws for influenza vaccination of HCP, through which vaccination of non-immune HCP is mandatory in the absence of a specified exemption or refusal.

Source: Media Health Leaders at

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