Did you get your flu vaccination yet for this season? If not, you’ve joined the ranks of health care workers who, for a variety of reasons, delay or outright refuse vaccination.  Do nurses—like patients—have the right to say “N”o to flu shots?

Some hospitals say “No Way!” Nurses and other employees have been fired, some have resigned, and still more risk losing their jobs for not getting vaccinated. Why would a healthcare worker refuse a flu vaccination? The reasons are many, including:

  • No time to fit in a flu shot. And before you know it, the season is over.
  • Allergies to flu vaccine (thought that’s not common);
  • Religious objections;
  • General skepticism about vaccinations;
  • Skepticism that flu vaccinations for workers will improve the health of patients;
  • Distrust of authority and dislike of mandates about personal health.

What is the rate of flu vaccination participation among health care workers? According to the latest data from a government survey of 1,944 health care workers:

  • An estimated 72% got vaccinated during the 2012-13 season.
  • Versus an estimated 66.9% coverage rate in 2011-12 season.
  • Versus an estimated 63.5% vaccination rate for the 2010-11 season.

Not surprisingly, coverage was highest at organizations with mandatory vaccinations. There is also a difference among roles:

  • Doctors had the highest coverage at an average of 80%:
  • Nurses followed at an average rate of 60%;
  • Nursing assistants and aides trailed at only 50%.
  • Vaccination coverage rates are even lower in nursing homes.

Here are some tactics that have increased participation rates at many work-sites, at all levels of employee: Educate staff about the risks of flu (especially to elderly, pregnant, infant and immune-compromised patients); promoting the benefits of vaccination to workers; offering no-cost vaccines on-site; scheduling shots for or when and where they’re most convenient.

The Centers for Disease Control aims for a 90% health care worker vaccination rate by 2020.

Jebra Turner

Jebra Turner

Jebra Turner is a freelance health writer in Portland, Oregon. She frequently contributes to the Minority Nurse magazine and website. Visit her online at www.jebra.com for self-care inspiration.
Jebra Turner

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