MUSIC T. (2012) A review of the role the role of influenza vaccination in protecting patients, protecting healthcare workers the role of influenza vaccination. International Nursing Review59, 161–167
Many health authorities recommend routine influenza vaccination for healthcare workers (HCWs), and during the 2009 A (H1N1) pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended immunization of all HCWs worldwide. As this remains an important area of policy debate, this paper examines the case for vaccination, the role of local guidelines, barriers to immunization and initiatives to increase uptake.
Seasonal influenza is a major threat to public health, causing up to 1 million deaths annually. Extensive evidence supports the vaccination of priority groups, including HCWs. Immunization protects HCWs themselves, and their vulnerable patients from nosocomial influenza infections. In addition, influenza can disrupt health services and impact healthcare organizations financially. Immunization can reduce staff absences, offer cost savings and provide economic benefits.
This paper reviews official immunization recommendations and HCW vaccination studies, including a recent International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) survey of 26 countries from each region of the world.
HCW immunization is widely recommended and supported by the WHO. In the IFPMA study, 88% of countries recommended HCW vaccination, and 61% supported this financially (with no correlation to country development status). Overall, coverage can be improved, and research shows that uptake may be impacted by lack of conveniently available vaccines and misconceptions regarding vaccine safety/efficacy and influenza risk.
Many countries recommend HCW vaccination against influenza. In recent years, there has been an increased uptake rate among HCWs in some countries, but not in others. Several initiatives can increase coverage, including education, easy access to free vaccines and the use of formal declination forms. The case for HCW vaccination is clear, and in an effort to further accelerate uptake as a patient safety measure, an increasing number of healthcare organizations, particularly in the USA, are implementing mandatory immunization policies, similar to other obligatory hygiene measures. However, it would be desirable if similar high vaccination uptake rates could be achieved through voluntary procedures.