The influenza vaccination rate among nursing home staff members was 54 percent during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons, according to a study in the February issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). That's in comparison with data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which indicate a 63 percent flu vaccination rate among long-term care workers during the 2013-2014 flu season and 59 percent in 2012-13; both seasons, these were the lowest rates among all types of healthcare workers, according to the CDC.
For the journal study, researchers from the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) surveyed 1,965 nursing home employees to determine flu vaccination rates and beliefs. The study included 37 nursing homes in Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin.
“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 authors write. “Low staff vaccination rates put vulnerable populations at risk of contracting influenza.”
The CDC found that vaccination rates improved when employers required vaccination among employees or offered the vaccine on-site and at no cost to employees. APIC supports mandatory flu vaccination as a condition of employment for healthcare personnel, saying that mandatory vaccination programs have proven to be the single most effective strategy to increase healthcare worker influenza vaccination rates.
The Emory/FHCA survey also examined influenza vaccination beliefs among nursing home personnel.
“Many employees hold inaccurate beliefs about influenza and vaccination,” the researchers state. Survey respondents who perceived the vaccination to be effective were 28 percentage points more likely to receive the flu vaccine. Additionally, almost 40 percent of those surveyed incorrectly believed that the vaccine causes flu. Respondents who believed the vaccine did not cause flu were 12 percentage points more likely to get vaccinated.
“Vaccination rates would be higher if staff held accurate beliefs about vaccination and influenza,” the researchers conclude.