It’s been shown that flu shots reduce the spread and severity of influenza. But despite CDC guidelines recommending that all health care professionals receive both the seasonal and H1N1 influenza vaccine, a significant number of physicians and nurses plan to decline the shots.
Data from the CDC show that only 40 percent of health care workers receive the seasonal flu vaccine. Reasons include fear of side effects, including the perception that the dead virus contained in the vaccine can cause disease. This is false, as is the belief that physicians and nurses are “too healthy” to become infected.
A UK survey says that 50 percent of doctors and a third of nurses do not plan on taking the H1N1 vaccine. Some point to the 1976 incident where a swine flu vaccine caused Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 500 people. Experts now believe contamination during the manufacturing process was to blame, and the World Health Organization has said that vaccine safety has since markedly improved.
Consider that there are 11 million health care workers in the United States. Also consider that at current rates of vaccination, hundreds of thousands of health care workers could potentially transmit the virus to patients under normal flu patterns. This is now compounded by the specter of the H1N1 virus.
We owe it to our patients to get vaccinated this flu season.
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