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Flu Vaccination Rates Much Lower for Medical Office Aides, Assistants

ATLANTA – If you are like the vast majority of physicians, you got a flu shot before the 2015-16 influenza season. The question is whether the assistants and aides working in your practice also were vaccinated.

An article in the Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report notes that coverage generally was highest among physicians, nurse practitioners/physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, and healthcare personnel working in hospital settings.

In fact, in an opt-in Internet panel survey, 95.2% of office-based physicians reported that they had been vaccinated, compared to 88.2% the previous year. The vaccination rate for office-based nurse practitioners/physician assistants also rose, from 85.1% to 89.1%, although it dropped slightly — from 90.8% to 88.6% — among nurses.

The rates were much lower, however, among aides and assistants in physician offices, at 62% for the 2015-16 flu season, according to the CDC. No measurement was provided for the previous season.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends annual influenza vaccination for all healthcare personnel to reduce influenza-related morbidity and mortality, and the estimated overall influenza vaccination coverage among healthcare personnel was 77.3%.

Based on the Internet panel survey, the overall influenza vaccination rate increased to 79% during the 2015-16 influenza season. The CDC notes that policies associated with higher vaccination coverage were employer vaccination requirements and offering vaccination at the workplace at no cost.

The Internet panel survey was conducted for CDC by Abt Associates, Inc. of Cambridge, MA, during March 28-April 14, 2016, to provide estimates of flu vaccination coverage among healthcare personnel during the 2015-16 influenza season. Similar surveys have been conducted since the 2010-11 flu season.

Noting that the percentage of employers with a vaccination requirement has not changed substantially since the 2013-14 season, the CDC authors added, “As in previous influenza seasons, higher influenza vaccination coverage among healthcare personnel was associated with employer vaccination requirements and with access to vaccination at the workplace at no cost, highlighting the value of vaccination requirements and access to influenza vaccination at the worksite as effective tools for increasing overall coverage.”

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