Only Two-Thirds of Health Care Workers are Vaccinated Against the Flu
They say if you don’t want to get sick, don’t go to the doctor. That adage may be particularly fitting during this challenging flu season.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said only about two-thirds of health care workers were vaccinated against this year’s strains of the influenza virus by the end of November 2017, or one month into the 2017-2018 flu season. The flu season in the U.S. runs from October through the following May.
Specifically, 67.6 percent of all health care personnel (HCP) got flu shots as this year’s flu season got underway compared with 68.5 percent at the same point during the previous flu season, the CDC said.
By occupation, pharmacists had the highest flu vaccination rate at 86.4 percent, followed by physicians (82.7 percent), nurses (80.9 percent), nurse practitioners and physician assistants (79.7 percent), other clinical personnel (75.1 percent), administrative support staff or manager/non-clinical support staff (61 percent), and assistants/aides (56.2 percent).
By setting, hospitals had the highest HCP flu vaccination rate at 82.6 percent, followed by physician offices and ambulatory care facilities (68.7 percent), long-term care facilities (58.5 percent) and other settings like dental offices and pharmacies (56.2 percent).
“Providing free, on-site, and actively promoted influenza vaccination in the workplace can lead to improved coverage,” the CDC said.
The CDC said vaccination rates were substantially higher at health care organizations that required their workers to get flu shots. The HCP vaccination rate at employers who required workers to get a flu shot was 88.4 percent compared with 65.1 at employers who recommended workers get vaccinated and 29.8 percent at employers who neither required nor recommended flu shots for workers.
Still, the overall HCP vaccination rate in November was nearly double the national rate for all adults, according to separate CDC report. The agency said 38.5 percent of adults age 18 or older had gotten a flu shot by the end of November 2017.
Speaking of flu, Minnesota was one of six states along with the District of Columbia that reported “low influenza-like illness (ILI) activity from Dec. 31, 2017, through Jan. 6, according to this week’s flu season update from the CDC.
Nationally, the percentage of outpatient visits for ILI that week was 5.8 percent, the CDC said. By comparison, the percentage of outpatient visits for ILI in Minnesota that week was 3 percent, according to the Minnesota Department of Health’s Weekly Influenza & Respiratory Illness Activity Report.