Blog | Thursday, September 29, 2011

QD: News Every Day--If health workers won't vaccinate, why would patients?

Health care workers' fear of flu shots has risen as an issue again.

A 3D graphical representation of a generic influenza virion’s ultrastructure, by CDC/ Doug Jordan, M.A.Refusing flu vaccination has risen among health professionals again and again. And again. And again and again.

Vaccination rates for health care workers stands at 35%, which is "a dismal rate," according to Margaret C. Fisher, MD, a pediatric disease subspecialist and the medical director of The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center. She spoke about vaccinating adults and health care workers at Internal Medicine 2011.

The issue is as annual as the flu itself, and this time, a physician at London's Imperial College NHS Trust has jumped into the debate, tackling misinformation given within his country's own health service. He said: "A very interesting question for me is why, as health care workers, we are so confident to speak on things that we haven't actually bothered to look up the facts on.

"If you go to the GP surgery and talk to the receptionist you're quite likely to get all sorts of facts about the flu vaccines which are completely incorrect but delivered with utter confidence. It permeates through the system."

Mass General internist Suzanne Koven, MD, addressed this in her Sept. 13 column at The Boston Globe. She writes: "Interestingly, though, vaccination rates have also been low among health care workers who, presumably, understand the dangers of flu and the risk that they will spread it to vulnerable patients. Many hospitals and clinics now require health providers to either have a flu shot or submit a signed refusal. Some even offer a cash bonus as incentive.

"I think that some of the fear of the flu shot has to do with the fact that it changes every year. The vaccine is reformulated to protect against the strains of influenza projected to cause the coming season's epidemic. That makes some people uneasy."

To counter this unease among health care workers, ACP's recommendations on vaccinating health care workers and the latest Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices are worth reviewing.