WebMD Medical News
Laura J. Martin, MD
Aug. 18, 2011 -- A new report from the CDC suggests that not enough health care workers are being vaccinated against the flu.
In its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC says that only 63.5% of 1,931 health care workers who took part in a survey in April 2011 said they had received flu vaccinations.
The coverage for doctors was 84%, compared to 70% for nurses.
The CDC says vaccination must be readily available to all health care personnel to effectively control influenza.
Carolyn Bridges, MD, an associate director for adult immunization at the CDC, said during a telephone news conference that plenty of vaccine is available this year and that vaccinating health care workers is important not only to keep them well but to prevent them from spreading disease to patients.
Bridges also says vaccinations decrease the risk of hospitalization for pregnant women and their children.
One study in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report focused on pregnant woman. Though pregnant women are at increased risk for influenza-related illness and death, vaccination helps protect them and their babies, according to the study.
Only about half of pregnant women were vaccinated during the 2009-2010 flu season, according to a survey for the 2010-2011 period. CDC officials say many pregnant woman are concerned about safety risks with the vaccine and thus don't get immunized.
Bridges says pregnant women whose health care providers offer vaccine are five times more likely to get immunized, although 40% of those surveyed said their doctors did not offer shots, according to Bridges.
The CDC says health care providers "need to strongly recommend and offer inactivated influenza vaccination to their pregnant patients."
Researchers say flu vaccination was about 98% among health care personnel whose employers required staff members to get vaccinated. And high rates of vaccination also were seen in workplaces that offered free vaccinations on multiple days to employees.
According to the CDC, 166 million doses are being produced for this flu season, up from 157 million last year.
Lisa Grohskopf, MD, of the CDC, says it is impossible to anticipate the severity of a flu season. What flu strains will circulate this year is a subject that "we will have to wait to find out."
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices says children ages 6 months to 8 years who didn't get vaccinated last year need two doses of the vaccine a minimum of four weeks apart. And two doses also should be given if health care providers are not sure whether a child was vaccinated the previous year.
The CDC also says people with egg allergies can be vaccinated safely, but this should be done with caution. Such people, CDC says, should consult health care professionals who are familiar with allergic reactions.
SOURCES:News release, CDC.Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Aug. 18-19, 2011; vol 60.Caroline Bridges, MD, associate director for adult immunization, CDC.Lisa Grohskopf, MD, CDC.
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