“Each season, 20% of health care workers get influenza, and 28%-59% of young healthy adults who get it have asymptomatic or subclinical infections,” writes Dr. Ken Flegel, Senior Associate Editor, CMAJ. “Some of them may shed virus up to a day before symptoms appear. It is time that all people who work in a health care institution be vaccinated.”
In Canada, there are approximately 20 000 hospital admissions related to influenza and an estimated 4000 to 8000 deaths attributed to the illness. However, 55%-65% of physicians do not get vaccinated against the flu and are putting patients at risk of illness and death.
Dr. Flegel argues that flu vaccination for health workers must be compulsory, although there could be exemptions for medical or religious reasons. A vaccination rate above 90% is required to prevent outbreaks in hospitals. Mandatory programs for health care workers in many US institutions have resulted in participation rates of about 95%.
“Our schools have shown us the way. During measles outbreaks, access to schools has been successfully denied to nonvaccinated children and staff. The time has come for health care institutions to demand that all health care workers be vaccinated. Our patients’ lives depend on this change,” Dr. Flegel concludes.