Whether you are a physician, nurse, physician assistant, pharmacist, or someone else who cares for sick or disabled people, your job as a healthcare professional is an important one. Healthcare professionals are expected to provide services to individuals in need and to do so with quality and care.
One way we can help ensure that we are doing our job the best way possible is to get our annual flu shot.
Yet, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that only 63.5% of healthcare workers were vaccinated during the 2010-2011 influenza season. Healthy People 2020 goals strive for a 90% vaccination rate for healthcare workers.
We are in constant contact with many people on a daily basis, including patients, hospital visitors, and staff, and should be getting immunized to help protect ourselves as well as those we interact with daily.
Influenza is a serious respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications, even death.
Research has shown that vaccinating healthcare workers can:
- Prevent disease spread to patients
- Decrease healthcare workers’ risk of infection
- Create herd immunity
- Prevent healthcare worker absenteeism during outbreaks
- Set an example by showing the importance of vaccination
Obviously, though, healthcare workers aren’t the only group of people who should get a flu shot each year.
For the past six years, the American Lung Association has been conducting its Faces of Influenza educational initiative to help Americans see themselves and their loved ones among the many “faces” of influenza — those recommended for vaccination by the CDC.
The CDC recommends vaccination for everyone in the U.S. 6 months of age and older, but groups at higher risk of flu-related complications include people 50 and older, children up to age 18, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, and diabetes. Also at higher risk are residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes.
The CDC especially recommends annual vaccination for those who come into close contact with high-risk groups, such as healthcare providers, caregivers, and household contacts.
Of note, the CDC report found that about 98% of healthcare personnel got vaccinated when their employers required staff members to do so. High rates were also common when the vaccine was free and offered on multiple days.
That being said, the American Lung Association encourages places of employment to keep these practices in mind this flu season to help increase rates of vaccination among healthcare professionals.
We also want to remind all healthcare professional that influenza vaccination is safe and most fears about complications related to vaccination are based on myths.
The American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza educational initiative is made possible through a collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur.
Norman H. Edelman is the Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association. This piece originally appeared in MedPage Today.
Submit a guest post and be heard on social media’s leading physician voice.