Low Flu Vaccination Rate Seen Among Nursing Home Staff

January 31, 2015
Eileen Oldfield Associate Editor

New research reports that the influenza vaccination rate among nursing home staff is only 54%, which may jeopardize their patients' health.

New research reports that the influenza vaccination rate among nursing home staff is only 54%, which may jeopardize their patients’ health.

“As evidence accumulates questioning the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine in older adults, it is increasingly important to consider staff as a source of influenza transmission,” the study authors said in a press release. “Low staff vaccination rates put vulnerable populations at risk of contracting influenza.”

Previous research showed that 72% of nursing home residents receive flu vaccinations. As a result, elderly populations rely on staff vaccination rates for added influenza protection.

Influenza is associated with as many as 7300 nursing home resident deaths annually, the authors noted.

Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and Florida Health Care Association researchers surveyed 1965 nursing home employees to determine vaccination rates and beliefs. Their findings encompassed the 2010 to 2011 and 2011 to 2012 flu seasons.

The researchers determined that many nursing home employees have inaccurate beliefs regarding influenza vaccinations, which may prevent them from receiving their annual flu shot. Nearly 40% of participants believed the vaccine caused influenza, the researchers found. Participants who did not believe the vaccine caused the flu were more likely to receive it, as were those who believed the vaccine was effective against the flu.

According to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, which published the study in the February 2015 edition of its journal, mandatory vaccination programs are the most effective strategy to increase influenza vaccinations among health care workers. A November 2014 study in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology found an automated influenza vaccination tracking system improved immunization compliance and reduced administrative burden among health care professionals.

Additionally, a study previously covered by Pharmacy Times found that frail seniors fare better when they receive high-dose flu vaccinations compared with the regular flu shot.