Influenza vaccine: Protection for both health care workers and patients

WHO

This year, WHO/Europe’s annual Flu Awareness Campaign aims to boost uptake of the seasonal influenza vaccine among health care workers. It also highlights the risk influenza poses for certain vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, elderly people or those with a chronic condition.

Health care workers have a higher risk of getting influenza compared to the general adult population, due to the nature of their work. Some studies have shown that during influenza outbreaks in health care facilities, more than half of health staff caring for influenza patients can become infected with the virus. Other studies indicate that health care workers can transmit influenza to patients who may be especially vulnerable to complications, including infants, the elderly and those who are immunosuppressed or have other chronic conditions. These vulnerable patients may develop life-threatening or even fatal complications. Finally, there is evidence that health care workers who are vaccinated against influenza themselves are more likely to recommend influenza vaccination to people at risk of complications.

The best way to prevent influenza – for a health care worker, someone from a particular risk group, or anyone else – is by getting vaccinated. Influenza vaccines are safe and the principal measure for preventing influenza.

Influenza vaccine recommended for health care workers

WHO recommends that health care workers get vaccinated against influenza each autumn, and most countries have formal recommendations in place. Nevertheless, influenza vaccination uptake among health care workers varies widely across the Region. Data from the 2014/2015 season indicates that, among the countries that reported on influenza vaccination uptake, it ranged from 2.5% in some countries to 99% in others. More than half of the countries reported that less than one in three health care workers gets the annual influenza shot. The lack of comprehensive data on influenza vaccine uptake among health care workers – only half of the Member States in the Region monitor uptake for this group – presents a challenge for understanding gaps in coverage and measuring national trends.