Just in time for flu season, CDC published new study data in its weekly epidemiological digest, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which may provide insight into protecting vulnerable patients.
Although it’s recommended that every American receive an influenza vaccination, health care workers are strongly encouraged to do so in order to safeguard the patients they come in contact with. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that all health care workers be vaccinated annually against influenza.
While influenza vaccines are not required by law for health care workers, many employers do make it mandatory. According to the CDC report, which looked at results from 1,900 health care personnel in various health care settings, workplaces that mandated the influenza vaccine had the highest rate of immunized employees at 98%, compared with employers who simply encouraged it and those who didn’t, with coverage rates for those employees at 72% and 48% respectively.
In addition, coverage rates were higher in settings where influenza vaccines were offered onsite at no cost. Eighty percent of workers received the vaccine when it was offered onsite for free on multiple days, and 62% got it when it was offered for free onsite on only 1 day, according to CDC.
“Comprehensive vaccination strategies that include making influenza vaccine available free of charge at the workplace along with active promotion of vaccine are needed to increase influenza vaccination coverage among health-care personnel (HCP) and minimize the risk of influenza to HCP and their patients,” said CDC.
The CDC report looked at vaccination rates among health care workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities, and found that in hospitals they were highest at 90% and lowest in long-term care settings at 63%. Overall, 75% of all health care workers received an influenza vaccination in the 2013–14 season, up only three percentage points from last season. The flu season generally runs from October through March.
For the first time, data on acute care hospital-based health care workers was obtained by CDC from 4,254 acute care hospitals. According to the agency, this represents the most complete picture so far of influenza vaccination rates for hospital-based health care workers, since acute care hospitals represent a large portion of hospitals in the United States.
Based on the data set from acute care hospitals, CDC found that 82% of hospital-based health care workers were vaccinated in the 2013–14 season.
CDC also looked at influenza vaccination rates in pregnant women for the 2013–14 season. The agency found that 65% of women got the vaccine in situations where their health care provider recommended it, which is up about 10 percentage points from last season.
ACIP and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that all pregnant women receive an influenza vaccination, and CDC is urging clinicians to strongly encourage and offer influenza vaccinations to their pregnant patients.