Influenza Vaccination Rates for Nurses Need a Boost
With all the
news coverage in the last few years of people scrambling to find a flu
shot, it is interesting to note that not everyone recommended for
annual vaccination and able to access it chooses to do so.
Surprisingly, one such group that avoids flu shots is the people
administering the vaccines. In fact, only 40 percent of all health care
workers were vaccinated in 2003, said the Centers For Disease Control
professionals – and nurses in particular – are key to
preventing the spread of influenza. Because of their frequent and
direct patient contact, nurses can spread the virus to patients in
their care. This is problematic for the many patients at high risk for
influenza-related complications that could lead to hospitalizations and
even death. Influenza can also be spread from one healthcare worker to
another or from patient to healthcare worker. In an era of nursing
shortages, understaffing and mandatory overtime, nurses do not want to
burden their co-workers by taking sick days related to something as
easily preventable as influenza, according to the CDC.
vaccine remains the best way for nurses to protect themselves, their
families and the patients in their care during the annual influenza
epidemic. An annual intramuscular vaccination, the influenza vaccine is
one of few immunizations that are recommended for all health care
professionals, regardless of any special conditions such as pregnancy,
HIV infection, severe immunosuppression, renal failure, asplenia,
diabetes, and alcoholism/alcoholic cirrhosis.
option for most healthcare providers is the live intranasal influenza
vaccine. This live vaccine is approved for use by healthy persons 5-49
years of age who are not pregnant and do not provide care for severely
immune-compromised persons requiring care in a protected environment.
Vaccine Myths Abound
established benefits of the influenza vaccine, however, several
misconceptions exist in the nursing community. The most common myth is
that the influenza vaccine can actually cause influenza. In reality,
the vaccine cannot cause influenza. Some nurses also mistakenly believe
that they are automatically immune to influenza or have stronger immune
systems merely because they work around sick people every day. Because
influenza viruses are constantlychanging, past exposure to influenza
will not provide protection against newly emerged strains the CDC said.
misconception is that the side effects of the vaccine are worse than
getting influenza itself. The truth is that the most serious side
effect is an allergic reaction in people who have a severe allergy to
eggs (the vaccine viruses are grown in eggs). For this reason,
influenza vaccination is contraindicated for persons with an egg
allergy. The most common side effects are redness at the injection site
and a sore arm. These symptoms are mild and resolve in one to two days.
people might argue that because the influenza vaccine is not 100
percent effective (it is 70-90 percent effective in healthy adults),
they will get influenza anyway. Even if the vaccine does not prevent
all individuals from getting influenza, they are still likely to be far
less sick than they would have been without the shot. The vaccine also
greatly reduces the chance of hospitalization and death. People at
greatest risk for influenza-related complications include: people 65
years and older; residents of nursing homes and other chronic care
facilities; people with chronic pulmonary or cardiovascular conditions;
people with diabetes mellitus; and children less than two years of age.
long played a key role in preventing much influenza-related morbidity
and mortality by ensuring that at-risk patients, particularly elderly
patients and young children, are vaccinated against influenza every
year. The time is long overdue for nurses to take care of themselves as
well, and protect against the influenza virus by getting a vaccination.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/flu