Blog | Monday, February 8, 2016

'About as stupid as it gets'


I have to thank Eli Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, for rekindling my interest in the mandatory influenza vaccination controversy. I had resigned myself to it being water under the bridge and had not thought much about it until the last week. What I didn't realize is that another Cochrane review was published last year on influenza vaccination of healthy adults. This is very useful to our discussion, since most health care workers fall into the category of healthy adults. A free full-text version of the review can be found here.

This review examined 69 clinical trials involving 70,000 participants, 27 cohort studies with 8 million subjects, and 20 case control studies with 25,000 participants. The bottom line is that the parenteral vaccine was 60% efficacious in preventing influenza, which didn't seem surprising to me. However, the absolute difference in influenza infections between the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups was only 1.3%. That knocked my socks off! All of the energy and resources consumed and ill will created in trying to increase vaccination rates in health care workers, including firing people, for a vaccine that reduces infection by 1% is about as stupid as it gets.

Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Iowa City, IA, with a focus on improving the quality and safety of health care, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. This post originally appeared at the blog Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention.