A substantial morbidity and mortality burden attributable to the influenza virus is observed annually in the United States. Healthcare workers are an occupational group at increased risk of exposure, demonstrated to transmit influenza to their patient populations, and vital to the care of these patient populations. The prevention of the spread of the flu is a significant public health concern. In the present study, we examined influenza vaccination rates and their 5-year trends within the major occupational healthcare worker groups and compared them to non-Healthcare Workers.
Using data from the nationally representative 2004–2008 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), US healthcare workers (n=6,394) were analyzed.
Seasonal influenza vaccination coverage estimates remain substantially low among all healthcare workers, highest among the health diagnosing and treating practitioners (52.3%), and lowest among other healthcare support occupations (32.0%). Among all other occupational groups, pooled influenza vaccination rates were highest for white collar workers (24.7%), and lowest for farm workers (11.7%). There were no significant upward or downward trends in influenza vaccination rates for any healthcare or other occupational worker group during the five-year survey period.
Improving these low vaccination rates among healthcare workers warrants a comprehensive national approach to influenza prevention that includes education and strong encouragement of routine annual vaccination among healthcare workers. Policy enhancements such as free provision of seasonal influenza vaccine, coverage for treatment and workers compensation for vaccine-related complications are needed.
Keywords: Flu, Vaccination, healthcare workers, occupation, epidemiology