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CDC: Long-term care must make flu vaccination a priority

September 27, 2013
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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If you work in a long-term care (LTC) setting, get vaccinated against influenza. If you own or manage an LTC facility, require or at least promote the importance of flu vaccination among your employees.

That’s the message the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relayed at a press conference held by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Clinical and nonclinical personnel working in LTC settings lag behind their peers employed in other healthcare settings. Only 59 percent of LTC professionals were vaccinated during the 2012-13 flu season, compared with 83 percent of those working at hospitals. Vaccination coverage increased among all occupational settings over the past three flu seasons except LTC facilities, according to the CDC. The overall vaccination rate of healthcare personnel in 2012-13 was 72 percent.

“If you are around people at high risk for flu complications, you need to get vaccinated,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, assistant surgeon general for the U.S. Public Health Service and director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Vaccination of those working in LTC settings is “extremely important,” according to the CDC, because:

  • People aged 65 or more years are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu compared with younger, healthy adults.
  • The flu vaccine’s effectiveness generally is lowest in the elderly, making vaccination of close contacts even more critical than it otherwise would be.
  • Many studies have demonstrated the health benefits to patients, including reduced flu-related complications and reduced risk of death, when LTC workers are vaccinated.

In recent years, vaccination of those working in long-term care was highest during the 2010-11 flu season, when it was 64.4 percent. The rate dropped to 52 percent during the 2011-12 season before increasing to 58.9 percent in 2012-13.

Employers have a big role to play in whether their employees get vaccinated against the flu, according to the CDC. The overall rate of flu vaccination among healthcare personnel reporting that their employers required vaccination was 96.5 percent, with coverage above 95% in all occupational healthcare settings, including LTC facilities, when it was required. The vaccination rate was 76.9 percent among healthcare personnel whose employers promoted but did not require vaccination, and it was 50.4 percent for those whose employers neither required not promoted vaccination.

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