Surprisingly, not all health care workers get the annual shot that immunizes against the influenza virus. In 2009, the majority of health care professionals (60 percent) took the flu shot during the H1N1 swine flu scare, and increase from 40 percent in previous years.
Federal vaccination subcommittee members said they planned to urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to mandate influenza vaccines for all health care workers. The subcommittee will present its final recommendations to the full vaccine advisory committee in February 2012.
The trend of health care workers resisting the influenza vaccine poses increased risks for patients, federal health officials found. Last year the HHS launched their Healthy People initiative, meant to increase vaccination rates among health care workers to 90 percent or higher by 2020.
Health care workers resist flu vaccinations for numerous reasons, experts say. In some cases, workers say the vaccine hurts, which William Schaffner, a doctor at the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases told the New York Times during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.
Older health care workers remember the days when it gave you a sore arm and made you feel crummy, Schaffner said in the NYT article. That's why some avoid it.
Hilary Babcock, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, suggested the flu shot mandate at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting in October.