New York Times
Accessed 29 September 2012
A Duty of Health Care Workers
Published: September 27, 2012
Health care workers should know better than anyone that it is important to get vaccinated against the flu virus to protect their own health and prevent the possibility of infecting patients. There were some encouraging signs in an analysis issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that doctors and nurses are beginning to get the message. But other health care workers — a broad group that includes clinical personnel like nurse practitioners and physician assistants and various nonprofessional aides and assistants — show remarkable indifference to performing what ought to be considered their civic duty.
The C.D.C. survey found that 67 percent of all health care workers were vaccinated during the 2011-12 flu season, up slightly from 64 percent the season before. Looking back over the past three seasons, the C.D.C. found that the percentage of physicians getting flu vaccine rose from 81 to 86 percent; the percentage of nurses jumped from 69 to 80 percent. Those rates don’t meet the national goal of 90 percent, but they are headed in the right direction.
Vaccination rates for other health care personnel remained roughly similar for all three years, in the low-60 percent range. Most disturbing, excluding doctors and nurses, only about half of the workers in long-term care facilities, which treat patients at high risk of complications if they get the flu, got vaccinated last season. When respondents were asked why they were not vaccinated, the most common reasons were a belief that they did not need it, concern about whether the vaccine was effective and worries about side effects.
Vaccinations of health care personnel should be required, either by state laws or by employers. The survey found that 95 percent of workers in hospitals that required vaccinations got them, compared with only 68 percent of those in hospitals without such a rule.
Even without making it mandatory, employers can make a difference by promoting vaccination through educational campaigns, by providing incentives and making vaccine easily available at no cost. Some 75 percent of workers whose institutions promoted vaccination got the flu vaccine. Employers need to press more of their workers to do so.