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Only Half of Nursing Home Workers Got Flu Vaccines

January 31, 2013

About half of nursing home workers have been vaccinated for the flu, reported Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., at a press telebriefing held on January 18, which he described as the “middle of the flu season” in the country overall.

In facilities that make it easier for health care workers to get their flu vaccination by doing it “on work time, at their work station, flexibly reaching out to health care workers,” the vaccination rates are 90 percent or higher, Frieden said.

Of pharmacists, doctors, and nurses, 85 percent were reported to have been vaccinated relatively early in the season. Similar to nursing home workers, only half of allied health workers had a flu vaccine, the CDC found.

Rhode Island is the only state that requires health care workers who have direct contact with patients to get flu vaccinations.

Deaths Can Be Prevented

Frieden advises that deaths from the flu can be prevented, “[f]irst, by vaccinating both the elderly and the people around them,” and “second, by giving prompt antiviral treatment.”

People over the age of 65 are estimated to account for 90 percent of deaths from the flu this season, the CDC director reports. The rate of laboratory-confirmed hospitalizations from influenza for this same age group is 82 per 100,000.

“There is still time to vaccinate,” Frieden advised.

“Overall activity is beginning to go down,” but “some parts of the country, particularly in the West, are showing increases,” he added.

Even in the parts of the country where the flu season is declining, there is still a risk, Joseph Bresee, M.D., FAAP, chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in CDC’s Influenza Division, cautioned at the telebriefing.

Oregon and Washington are seeing increases in flu activity, and the numbers also continue to rise in the Southwest, according to a recent USA Today article.

Vaccine Availabile

The CDC said that more vaccine is still available for providers to order.

Providers can visit the Influenza Vaccine Availability Tracking System (IVATS) to locate and purchase flu vaccine.

See the CDC Flu Activity and Surveillance webpages for more information on the nation’s flu outbreak this season.

— by Deane Beebe

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