CDC Strongly Urges Physicians to Get Flu Shots

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Getting more physicians and other health care professionals vaccinated against the flu is a key element in efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent transmission of the disease to vulnerable patients.

"Health care workers may not be at risk for a severe complication, but they can pass the flu virus on to somebody else under their care and cause a serious health risk to that individual," Dr. Julie Gerberding, who is director of the CDC, said at a press conference sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Available data suggest that only 38% of health care professionals get vaccinated against influenza each year. "That's an alarmingly low number, especially when you consider the CDC recommendation that all health care professionals receive the influenza vaccine," said Dr. Donald Palmisano, president of the American Medical Association.

Because of the nature of their jobs, health care workers are at a higher risk of exposure to influenza. During a flu epidemic, this could mean a short supply of health care staff. "Just picture the implications of a flu epidemic among the staff of a hospital, clinic, or private practice," Dr. Palmisano said.

An even more important consideration is that without vaccination, physicians and other health care professionals can transmit the flu to patients in their care, who are likely to be susceptible to the flu and vulnerable to its complications.

According to one study involving 264 hospital-based health care professionals, the efficacy of the flu vaccine was 88% for influenza A and 89% for influenza B (JAMA 281[10]:908-13, 1999).

The CDC estimates that on average 36,000 people die annually from complications of influenza, and 114,000 people are hospitalized because of the disease. Influenza is the leading cause of death among vaccine-preventable diseases, with 90% of those deaths occurring among the elderly.

The CDC has a goal of vaccinating 90% of people who should be vaccinated--those 65 years and older, anyone 50 years and older with a chronic health problem, children aged 6-23 months, and pregnant women in the second and third trimesters. …