Flu Vaccination Rates Among US Health care Workers Held Steady in 2017-2018 Season


A new report on influenza vaccination rates among US health care workers finds that employer requirements help keep vaccination rates of health care workers higher than that of the general public.

New data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that while influenza vaccination coverage among health care personnel in the United States remained higher than the national average for 2017-2018, it still fell below target goals.

The United States saw a severe flu season in 2017-2018, considered to be the worst in a decade, causing high rates of flu illness and a spike in hospitalizations around the country. By the end of that flu season, the CDC estimated that the interim overall effectiveness of the flu vaccine against both influenza A and B viruses was 36%; this included 25% vaccination effectiveness against H3N2 viruses, 67% against H1N1, and 42% against influenza B viruses. Still, despite the vaccine’s performance, health officials continue to recommend the yearly flu shot as it offers more protection against the flu than skipping the vaccine.

The CDC, along with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the Health care Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) recommend that all health care workers in the United States receive the annual flu vaccine to help protect themselves, their families, and their patients. That recommendation includes physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, therapists, technicians, emergency medical service personnel, dental personnel, pharmacists, laboratory personnel, autopsy personnel, and any personnel directly involved in patient care but who may become exposed to infectious agents that can be transmitted to and from health care workers and patients. The Healthy People 2020 goals include a target of 90% annual flu vaccine coverage for health care personnel.

Among the general population, flu vaccination rates for all ages groups during the 2017-2018 season remained below 40% in the United States. In a new report published on October 2 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, investigators say that while that rate remained significantly higher among health care workers, it continues to fall below target. The report details the results of an internet panel survey of health care personnel conducted for the CDC from March 27 to April 17, 2018, similar to surveys conducted since the 2010-2011 flu season. In the survey taken for the 2016-2017 flu season, 78.6% of respondents reported receiving the seasonal flu vaccine. The latest survey included a final analytic sample of 2,265 health care personnel.

“The overall influenza vaccination coverage estimate among health care personnel was 78.4% during the 2017—18 influenza season, a 15 percentage-point increase since the 2010–11 season, but similar to coverage during the previous four seasons,” the report’s authors write. “As in past seasons, the highest coverage was associated with workplace vaccination requirements. Reported coverage was consistently higher among health care personnel working in hospital settings than among those working in other settings; health care personnel working in hospital settings were also the most likely to report workplace vaccination requirements.”

In addition, health care personnel such as aides and assistants working in long-term care settings continue to have some of the lowest flu vaccination rates in the industry. The paper’s authors note that flu vaccine efficacy is lowest among the elderly, who are at greater risk of severe disease and death from the flu, making influenza vaccination among health care personnel in long-term care settings especially important.

Despite the severity of the 2017-2018 flu season, vaccination coverage and employer vaccination requirements and promotion remained similar to the previous season. For the 2018-2019 flu season, health officials remind health care workers that getting vaccinated from the flu can reduce influenza-related morbidity and mortality among health care workers, reduce work absences, help protect patients.

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