Mandatory flu vaccination policies for healthcare workers resulted in 95% vaccination rates last season, but immunization fell off dramatically in settings where requirements, emphasis, and ease of access were not in place, the CDC reported.1

Overall, 78.4% of healthcare workers received influenza vaccination during the 2017-2018 season, one of the most severe in history.

“More than 900,000 people were hospitalized and more than 80,000 people died from flu last season,” the CDC emphasized.2 “These new estimates are record-breaking and emphasize the seriousness and severity of flu illness and serve as a strong reminder of the importance of flu vaccination.”

A total of 2,265 workers responded to a CDC online survey to assess flu vaccination coverage last year, which was similar to the four preceding seasons.

“As in previous seasons, coverage was highest among personnel who were required by their employer to be vaccinated and lowest among those working in settings where vaccination was not required, promoted, or offered onsite (47.6%),” the CDC noted.

Continuing a historical trend, long-term care workers had the lowest immunization rates (67.4%), despite working with a population at increased risk of severe complications.

“In contrast to healthcare personnel working in hospitals, a much lower proportion of survey respondents working in long-term care settings reported having a requirement for vaccination, and 23.5% reported that their employer did not require, make available on-site at no cost, or promote vaccination in any way,” the CDC reported.

The combination of a deadly flu season and the vaccine data are likely to be cited by proponents of broader application of mandatory policies, particularly in long-term care.

“Implementing workplace vaccination programs that have been successful in increasing coverage in hospital settings, including vaccination requirements, could increase coverage in long-term care and other settings with historically lower vaccination coverage,” the CDC concluded.

Vaccination was highest among hospital workers at 91.9%, followed by ambulatory care at a 75.1% immunization rate.

“Overall, vaccination coverage in 2017–18 was higher among physicians (96.1%), pharmacists (92.2%), nurses (90.5%), and nurse practitioners and physician assistants (87.8%), and lower among other clinical healthcare personnel (80.9%), assistants and aides (71.1%), and nonclinical health care personnel (72.8%),” the CDC concluded.

REFERENCES

  1. CDC. Influenza Vaccination Coverage Among Health Care Personnel — United States, 2017–18 Influenza Season. MMWR 2018;67(38);1050–1054.
  2. CDC. National Press Conference Kicks Off 2018-2019 Flu Vaccination Campaign. Sept. 27, 2018. Available at: https://bit.ly/2xKK1Od.