Should healthcare workers be vaccinated?
Yes. The World Health Organization strongly recommends healthcare workers as a priority group for influenza vaccination, not only for their own protection and ability to maintain services but also to reduce the spread of influenza
to their vulnerable patients including pregnant women.
Healthcare workers can transmit influenza without knowing they are infected. Influenza does not always cause symptoms or make a person feel unwell. Data from the Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness Research and Surveillance (SHIVERS) study, based in Auckland, suggest that four out of five children and adults (80%) with influenza did not have symptoms. In an earlier study following the 2009 influenza season in New Zealand, almost one quarter of the adults who reported that they had not had influenza in 2009 had serological evidence of prior infection (21% [95% confidence interval 13–30%]).
Healthcare workers have a duty of care to protect vulnerable patients from the serious health threat of influenza illness. Studies demonstrate that annual influenza vaccination for healthcare workers is likely to reduce illness among the patients they care for. Relying on patients being vaccinated is not enough as vulnerable people may have a poor immune response to their vaccination or may not have been vaccinated this year.
Influenza vaccination coverage rates for District Health Board-based (DHB-based) healthcare workers has remained steady at 65–66% over the past few years. For 2018, the Ministry of Health has introduced the goal of 80% of DHB-based healthcare workers are vaccinated against influenza annually. The 2018 Workforce Influenza Immunisation Coverage Rates by District Health Boards report is available on the Ministry of Health website https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/preventative-health-wellness/immunisation/influenza.
Recommend annual influenza vaccination to your patients