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Nurses Are Good at Giving Flu Vaccines, Bad at Getting Them

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, November 27, 2012

That nurses can help improve vaccination rates is no surprise, but I can't help but notice an ironic side to this: Nurses might be good at giving the vaccine and making sure their patients get it, but they and other healthcare workers are notoriously bad at getting flu vaccines for themselves.

As surely as autumn brings falling leaves and longer nights, every flu season brings with it the annual controversy surrounding vaccines for healthcare workers. Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages people to get flu vaccines to protect themselves from the virus. And yet each year, new stats show that healthcare workers are among the worst offenders for not complying with those recommendations. Earlier this fall, 2011–2012 flu season stats from the CDC showed that in physician offices, one in three (32.3%) workers were not immunized. In long-term care facilities, nearly half (47.6%) of workers failed to get their flu shots.

According to other CDC data, voluntary measures for ensuring employee vaccination don't seem to work as well as mandatory ones. "During the 2010–2011 influenza season, coverage for influenza vaccination among healthcare workers was estimated at 63.5%," the CDC reports. However, "coverage was 98.1% among healthcare workers who had an employer requirement for vaccination."

Although vaccination mandates are growing more widespread, many organizations remain hesitant to make vaccinations a condition of employment, rendering the mandates effectively toothless.

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3 comments on "Nurses Are Good at Giving Flu Vaccines, Bad at Getting Them"


Deborah Jackson-Smith (11/29/2012 at 11:33 AM)
While I'm not a nurse, I've been in the health care environment for 32 years and worked with physicians, nurses, students, ancillary staff, volunteers and anyone else who provides service to our patient and the bottom line is we're ALL considered health care workers in one way or another. That being said, it's each person's responsibility and right to make the decision to get vaccinated based on the simple question they should all ask themselves; "Am I putting my patient at risk by not getting vaccinated?" Kind of a no-brainer if you ask me.

Eddy Geyer (11/28/2012 at 1:34 PM)
Odd your article fails to mention the ethical issues associated with forced vaccination. You report that when vaccination is forced rates go from 63 to 98%. Have you wondered because that's because the employees were bullied and threatened with firing? Is that a good way to foster good will? Those who refuse are branded with shaming masks.Everyone knows masks are absolutely not effective after being in use for 10 minutes and in some cases have been shown to increase spread of infection? I would expect to see a dramatic drop in infection rates in those hospitals, has that been the case? Maybe these healthcare workers know something we do not. My sister in law who was employed with Swedish public health during the WHO [INVALID]d narcolepsy epidemicin 2009 among children from Sweden, Finland and Iceland that was caused by the flu vaccine, Pandermix. Strangely Poland who refused the vaccination completely had essentially the same death rate as Sweden and naturally not a single case of narcolepsy. My sister in law, a nurse, absolutely refuses vaccination to this day due to unknown long term side effects that have never been studied and autoimmune phenomenon such as this. Maybe healthcare workers, as educated individuals are more likely to make rational choices that aren't motivated by drama. I can tell you one thing, forced vaccination is the worst thing any hospital could enforce, it fosters anger, bitterness for a vaccine that is likely not as good as it claims to be. Thank you for listening Ed

Emily Leger RN (11/28/2012 at 12:17 AM)
Hmm how about dont lie to them? How about be mandated to stick to evidence based medicine? How about transparency and honesty? Consider the fact that healthcare workers will do their job when at work but when it comes to their own bodies they want interventions based on evidence, not idealism. The influenza vaccine, unlike other credible vaccinations, is not based in evidence. See the Cochrane Collective evidence review ( heard of them? the Lancet called them "the most important medical advancement since the discovery of the human genome") found that vaccination of healthcare workers had no effect on transmission of influenza to their elderly patients. The review found that in order to stop one case of influenza you had vaccinate between 33 and 99 people. So I ask you, if you vaccinate a nurse who might spend 4 minutes with the patient, then why not vaccinate every single person that person comes in contact with? Where does your vaccination program end? Remember when we were young and no one ran around in a season tizzy about our vulnerable dying? Influenza is an old virus, I gaurentee you it was the same strains then, so I ask you whats different now? Do not mistake quantity for quality in influenza research. Osterholm's recent exhaustive influenza review founds that only 31 out of 5707 influenza studies were conducted to scientific standards.. Osterholm says it best to the new york times: "We have overpromoted and overhyped this vaccine," said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, as well as its Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance. "It does not protect as promoted. It's all a sales job: it's all public relations." Also, the numbers of flu deaths are grossly exaggerated lie. see this extensively researched piece from CBC http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/11/22/flu-deaths-crowe.html Truth is influenza is a big business that is based on quaint notions of saving our elderly. Do not suggest nurses that dont vaccinate are inflicting harm. there have never been proof that this vaccine stops transmission of the virus. The people doing the harm are those in public health and government who do horrible things like force vaccination on healthcare workers and provide misinformation to the public to keep them scared. The current influenza message is firmly rooted in idealism with the quaint, politically motivated notion that our patients will feel better if their health care workers have been vaccinated..they would do better wearing a rabbits foot.