Health Workers Shun Flu Shots

November 5, 2008
Special Feature

As the flu season gets underway, the CDC has launched its annual public relations effort urging those at risk to get a flu shot.

As the flu season gets underway, the CDC has launched its annual public relations effort urging those at risk to get a flu shot. The at-risk population includes those over age 50, the chronically ill, and virtually all children between age 6 and 18.

The media blitz doesn’t always work; many members of the general public don’t get a flu shot for a variety of reasons. Some just don’t want to be bothered, while others worry that the flu shot will give them the flu. What surprises public health officials, however, is the fact that almost 3 out of 5 healthcare workers don’t get a flu shot.

According to officials of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, this is a worrisome statistic. Health professionals, they say, have an obligation to make sure they are protected against influenza, since the virus can be spread so easily to patients and other healthcare workers. The CDC has recommended that hospitals offer staff members free flu shots and get signed statements from any who refuse. One public health official also recommends that patients find out if their doctor has gotten a flu shot.

Some hospitals have taken the CDC guidelines a step further, making flu shots mandatory for all employees who have contact with patients and allowing exceptions only to those who have a note from their doctor that they are allergic to the vaccine. At least one hospital has even extended the mandatory flu shot requirement to sales reps, vendors, and volunteers.