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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Hospital flu vaccination rates hit record levels, but more than 40% of nursing home workers skip shots

Hospital employees recorded the highest-ever rates of influenza immunization in the past flu season, with 83% of hospital-based health care workers reporting they got the shot. But as public health authorities touted that success, they revealed a troubling statistic: A paltry (59%) of health care workers in long-term care received the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That rate was actually worse than the rate of the 2010-2011 season, the year after the H1N1 pandemic, when an Internet-based survey indicated that 64% of health care workers in long-term care facilities received the vaccine.

The health care workers themselves aren’t the only ones to blame. Half of them reported that their long-term care employers did not offer free flu vaccines to workers.

“In the long-term care facilities, where the patients are the most vulnerable, they’re the least likely to be offering vaccine or be offering it for free,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, (RADM, USPHS), Assistant Surgeon General for the US Public Health Service and director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC. She spoke at a recent news conference sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).

Yet public health efforts have not always focused on health care workers in long-term care. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requires hospitals to report influenza vaccination rates of health care workers, but long-term care facilities report the vaccination rates of residents.

--Michele Marill

For more on this important story see the November 2013 issue of Hospital Employee Health.