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Johns Hopkins flu expert calls for mandatory vaccination of health care workers

absenteeism and high rates of non-vaccination, she notes.

"We need to close the very serious gap between knowledge and behavior that exists among health care workers," Perl argues, and it can be done, she says. In 2003, her team, along with occupational health services, at Hopkins vaccinated more than 70 percent of 10,000 hospital staff. "But we can do better and, ideally, at Hopkins and other hospitals, our objective would be to consistently have more than 90 percent of staff vaccinated each year."

According to Perl, numerous staff surveys from other hospitals have shown that the most common reason cited for not getting a vaccination is a lack of time (47 percent). Surprisingly, a remarkably high number of staff, more than 30 percent, believed they could catch influenza from the vaccine itself, which is false.

Perl also notes from surveys that relying on people's self-awareness is not sufficient to prevent the flu from spreading. "One-half of infected health care workers have no idea when they are infected with influenza, often having few if any signs and symptoms and making it impossible to ask all staff to stay home when they are feeling ill to prevent other people from catching their infection," she says.

Still other studies have found that education campaigns can be effective at increasing vaccination rates among health care workers by as much as 60 percent. And to the surprise of those conducting these surveys, the reason most likely to motivate health care workers to get the shot is that it benefits patients, not themselves.

However, in the editorial, Perl concludes that, "'Shifting the message from self-interest to altruism in protecting patients may improve vaccination rates, but it won't fix the problem. From a hospital policy standpoint, this is a real patient safety issue and vaccination can be viewed as a means of protecting patients from influenza exposure and the related mortality seen among vulnerabl
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Source:Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions


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