I get my flu shot every year. I am always one of the first in line.
I’ve had the flu. Recently in fact, and it was no picnic.
I caught H1N1 in the spring of 2009 (Mother’s Day weekend to be precise), before the vaccine was available. It was horrible…I was flat on my back for 2 days and, oh my God, those myalgias. In addition to taking a course of Tamiflu, I was off work for 6 days to protect my co-workers and patients from my contagion. Oh yeah, and the fear. The fear that I would give this infection to my son. Oliver who has
already been hospitalized twice with influenza despite annual vaccinations. Oliver, my precious boy who depends on herd immunity. Oliver, who if he gets the flu and is sick enough to require hospitalization has a 39% risk of needing a ventilator based on his neuromuscular issues and his lung disease, never mind his heart disease (Kerem R. et al JAMA 2005).
So I get a flu shot to protect myself, to protect my kids, and to protect my patients. Sadly, not every health care professional shares that sentiment.
Despite recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee that all U.S. health care personnel (HCP) be vaccinated annually against influenza, last year during the 2009–10 influenza season, only 61.9% of HCP received seasonal influenza vaccination.
Yup, 38.1% of health care personnel…
- can’t fit it in their schedule (dudes, you work in a place where you can get the vaccine)
- refuse to believe the evidence based medicine that the influenza vaccine reduces the burden of disease, reduces sick days, and saves lives (the vaccine reduces your chance of getting the flu by 72%)
- believe that the flu vaccine causes the flu (it doesn’t)
- believe the vaccine in dangerous (The rate of serious adverse events is 8.8 per 1 million doses for the H1N1 vaccine and 4.1 per 1 million doses for the seasonal influenza vaccine).
- are scared of shots (there is a nasal spray)
- don’t believe the flu is all that bad (it almost killed my son. Twice.)
- have some other excuse that is lamer than those listed above.
BTW, all excuses from health care personnel for refusing the flu vaccine are lame, because, I don’t know, THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER. Perhaps I didn’t emphasize that point enough.
They should fucking know better.
Listening to anti-vaccine/conspiracy theory lay people spew garbage is one thing, but when that drivel comes from the mouths of people who are supposed to be in the field of health care (meaning you are supposed to care…about good medicine and about your patients, oh, and probably about the public too), it’s another thing.
That’s why I’m all for mandatory flu vaccination. Employers saying, “Flu vaccination is a condition of employment.” It’s not such a big stretch. Every year I have to prove that I don’t have tuberculosis, and not just for my own protection, so I don’t unwittingly transmit it to my coworkers and patients. The flu is no different. The other bonus (as if preventing patients from contracting flu from their doctor or nurse wasn’t enough incentive), employees who are vaccinated take fewer sick days.
And here’s the thing. Mandatory flu vaccination works. When it is a condition of employment, flu vaccination rates jump to 98.1% (ref: MMWR, Vol. 60, No. 32, August 19, 2011).
It’s a simple as that.
So I call on every hospital and medical practice to make flu vaccination a condition of employment/hospital privileges. It’s the smartest business decision you can make.
Because apparently without the help of employers, 38.1% of health care personnel will continue to put some of the most vulnerable at risk.
And there’s no caring in that. Not at all.