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Half of all Pregnant Women Getting Flu Shots; Vaccination Rates Increase for Health Care Personnel, Surveys Find

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- About half of all pregnant women and 72 percent of health care personnel are getting recommended flu vaccinations, according to two separate surveys from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted by Abt Associates on influenza vaccination coverage among pregnant women and health care workers during the 2012-2013 flu season.

Both groups need influenza vaccinations. Pregnant women are at a high risk of developing complications from flu, including severe illness and hospitalization. If a pregnant woman gets a flu vaccination, they will receive protection not only for themselves, but also their unborn and newborn babies, especially babies less than 6 months old who are too young to be vaccinated. Similarly, if health care personnel get a flu vaccination, they will receive protection and be able to help protect their patients and family members from the serious consequences of getting the flu.

The survey of 1,702 pregnant women found that flu vaccination was highest — at 70 percent — among women whose health care providers recommended and offered the flu shot to them. Women who received only a recommendation but no offer of vaccination and those who received no recommendation were less likely to get vaccinated. Similarly, women who lacked health insurance, had less frequent visits with their doctor, or had a lower socioeconomic status had lower vaccination coverage than other survey participants.

Concern about safety risks to their baby, beliefs that the vaccination would give them flu, or that the vaccine was ineffective were the top reasons pregnant women reported for not getting the shot. However, vaccination coverage was higher among all women who received both a health care provider recommendation for vaccination and offer to provide the flu shot, even among those who had negative attitudes about the effectiveness or safety of the shot.

"We know that flu vaccination not only decreases the risk of flu-related illness and complications for pregnant women, but can decrease the risk of severe flu-related illness in infants in the first 6 months, before they are old enough to get vaccinated," said Deborah Klein Walker, a vice president, senior fellow, and practice leader for Public Health and Epidemiology at Abt Associates. "Strategies that make it easier for pregnant women to get the vaccine by reducing the costs and helping health care providers recommend the vaccination at each visit are needed."

Vaccination Rates Increase for Health Care Personnel

Overall, 72 percent of 1,944 health care personnel surveyed reported getting a flu vaccine for the 2012–13 season, an increase from a little over 63 percent during the 2010–11 season. Flu shots were most common among physicians, at 92 percent.

Vaccination coverage was highest among hospital-based workers and was lowest among those who worked in long-term care facilities. For all health-care work settings, vaccination rates were higher where employers made the shots available on site at no cost for multiple days. Where employers required health care personnel to get a flu shot, overall vaccination coverage was a little over 96 percent.

"Health care personnel are an important group to track because they are at a particularly high risk for illness during the flu season due to their frequent exposure," said Sarah Ball, the project director at Abt for both flu surveys. "Health care organizations, especially those with patients in long-term care facilities, could use the start of the new flu season to consider implementing policies to encourage and make it easier for employees to receive an immunization."

The full research was published in the September 27, 2013 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 

About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators.  The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.   

SOURCE Abt Associates
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