Healthcare Business News

Flu vaccination rate rises for hospital workers, CDC reports

By Ashok Selvam
Posted: December 3, 2012 - 6:00 pm ET

The rate of flu vaccinations among hospital workers in November increased to 83.4% from 77.8% a year earlier, although the numbers were static for the overall healthcare workforce and the general public, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The hospital figures suggest that efforts that go as far as mandatory vaccinations at a small but growing number of hospital systems are paying off toward meeting the CDC's goal of reaching a 90% vaccination for healthcare workers, but the overall rate of 62.9% for healthcare personnel across all settings remains far from that benchmark.

The rate of flu vaccinations for the general public has also held steady compared with 2011, according to the CDC, with this year's rate standing at 37%. The 2011 rate was 36.3%. The 2012 flu season is also off to an early start. Excluding 2009's H1N1 pandemic, this season the country has seen the most flu-like-illness activity since the 2002-03. The CDC plans to host a live Twitter chat from 1 to 2 p.m. ET Wednesday to address flu topics in conjunction with National Influenza Vaccination Week.

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So far this year, pharmacists have led the way as the profession with the highest percentage receiving vaccinations at 88.7%. Physicians followed at 83.8%, then nurses at 81.5%, followed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants at 73.3%. Other clinical professionals—such as allied health professionals, dentists, technicians and technologists—ranked last at 76.7%. The data comes from a CDC survey of 2,006 healthcare personnel.

The survey also asked respondents where they worked. About 83.4% of healthcare personnel at hospitals were vaccinated this year, compared with 77.8% in 2011. Meanwhile, 65.4% of staffers at physician offices or in an ambulatory-care setting were vaccinated in 2012, compared with 64.4% in 2011. The rate of vaccinations for healthcare workers at long-term-care facilities was 48.7% this year, compared with 45.1% in 2011. Workers at other facilities, including dental offices, pharmacies, home-medical sites and medical schools were also surveyed. About 56.6% of them received vaccines in 2012, compared to 57% in 2011.

The CDC's goal is for 90% of healthcare workers to receive vaccinations by 2020, which has moved more healthcare providers to announce vaccination requirements for their workers. This year, 15.5% of respondents answered that a work requirement was their main reason for vaccination, and that reason ranked second on the survey. The No. 1 reason, as was the case in 2011, continued to be “protecting myself,” as 47.1% answered with that response.

Some workers, including union nurses, have balked at being forced to be vaccinated. They've argued that any mandate should be part of collective bargaining.

The CDC has called for workers to have additional education on the merits of vaccines, and it may be working. Fewer healthcare workers in 2012 answered that their main reason for avoiding vaccination was that they didn't think the vaccine worked. The number who answered that in 2011 was 31.6%, compared with 17.4% this year.

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