While the general public seems to be somewhat indecisive when it comes to the influenza vaccination, experts in the medical community have a much stronger opinion, especially for health care workers. So far this year the National Patient Safety Foundation, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society of Healthcare Epidemiologists of America, the Loyola University Health System (this includes all of its 7,825 employees, of which 99.3 percent were vaccinated against the seasonal flu last year) all require mandatory flu vaccinations for health care workers. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), vaccination within the health care work force is the best way to prevent the spread of influenza amongst patients.
Vaccinating Health Care Workers
Last year only 61.9 percent of all medical workers in the United States received influenza vaccinations voluntarily, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Standing on the front line in the nation’s battle against the flu each year, the CDC recommends that all health care workers receive annual vaccinations. According to the CDC Website:
- CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend that all health care workers get an annual flu vaccine.
- Fewer than half of health care workers report getting an annual flu vaccine.
- As a health care worker, by getting vaccinated, you can help protect your family at home as well as your patients at work from getting sick.
- Influenza outbreaks in hospitals and long-term care facilities have been attributed to low vaccination rates among health care professionals.
- Studies have shown that higher vaccination rates among health care workers can reduce influenza-like illness, and even deaths, in settings like nursing homes.
- Health care workers play an important role in protecting public health, and your co-workers need you to be healthy and able to cover your shift.
- Getting a yearly flu vaccine can help ensure your time off is spent doing what you want to do, not staying at home sick.
As opposed to the two influenza vaccines recommended last year, only a single trivalent vaccine is being manufactured for the 2010-2011 seasonal influenza. The 2009 pandemic influenza A (H1N1) strain has replaced last year’s influenza A (H1N1) strain in the 2010-2011 trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine, which also includes two other strains of flu virus.
The AAP recommends annual trivalent seasonal influenza immunization for all children and adolescents 6 months of age and older, with special consideration for all family members, household contacts, and out-of-home care providers of children who are younger than 5 years, health care personnel, and pregnant women.The AAP policy includes a concise flow chart to simplify decision-making about the number of influenza vaccine doses a child needs, which depends on the child’s age at the time of the first dose and vaccine history:
- Children younger than 6 months are too young to receive influenza vaccine.
- Children 9 years of age and older need only 1 dose.
- Children younger than 9 years need a minimum of 2 doses of 2009 pandemic H1N1 vaccine. If they did not receive the H1N1 vaccine during last year’s flu season, they will need two doses of seasonal influenza vaccine this year.
- Children younger than 9 years who have never received the seasonal flu vaccine before will need 2 doses.
- Children younger than 9 years who received seasonal flu vaccine before the 2009-2010 flu season need only one dose this year if they received at least 1 dose of the H1N1 vaccine last year. They need 2 doses this year if they did not receive at least 1 dose of the H1N1 vaccine last year.
- Children younger than 9 years who received seasonal flu vaccine last year for the first time, but only received 1 dose, should receive 2 doses this year.
- Children younger than 9 years who received a flu vaccine last year, but for whom it is unclear whether it was a seasonal flu vaccine or the H1N1 flu vaccine, should receive 2 doses this year.
- All children who need 2 doses should receive the second dose at least 4 weeks after the first dose.
General Information About Influenza Viruses
The following information is provided by the CDC on its Website:
- The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to hospitalizations and death.
- The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. Influenza viruses may also be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else’s mouth or nose) before washing their hands.
- Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days.
- Some people, such as older adults, pregnant women, and very young children as well as people with certain long-term medical conditions are at high risk of serious complications from the flu.
- Since health care workers may care for or live with people at high risk for influenza-related complications, it is especially important for them to get vaccinated annually.