The CDC recommends that all healthcare professionals receive an annual flu vaccination to prevent transmission to patients.
Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection, it is best to get vaccinated before flu begins spreading in a community. Healthcare professionals should offer vaccination by the end of October. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.
Healthcare Professionals and Flu Immunization Rates
- Healthcare professionals are frequently the source of flu in healthcare settings. This is particularly troublesome for the vulnerable patients in their care, who may be at increased risk of severe complications, including flu-related mortality.
- Outbreaks have been documented in high-risk patient care areas, including organ transplant units, long-term care facilities, and neonatal intensive care units.
- Flu vaccination rates among healthcare professionals have improved but still remain below public health goals.
According to CDC data, among unvaccinated healthcare professionals surveyed early in the 2017-2018 flu season who did not intend to get a flu vaccination during the flu season, the most common reason reported for not getting vaccinated was fear of experiencing side effects or getting sick from the vaccine (22.1%).
In fact, the flu vaccine is made with flu viruses that are either weakened or have been inactivated (killed), and only broken up parts of the inactive virus are included in the vaccine. Therefore, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu.
Benefits of Flu Immunization of Healthcare Professionals
- Influenza immunization is an important patient safety issue. Unvaccinated healthcare professionals can spread flu to patients, coworkers, and family members, leading to flu-related illnesses and deaths.
- Annual flu immunization of healthcare professionals:
- Prevents severe illnesses and deaths
- Protects patients, families, and coworkers
- Decreases use of sick leave
Infection Passed from Healthcare Professionals Can Increase Morbidity and Mortality Among Patients
Many believe only older adults are at risk for increased complications from flu. However, any individual with underlying medical conditions (e.g., asthma, diabetes, heart disease, immune deficiency) is at increased risk, as are infants and young children. Even healthy people are at risk for getting sick from flu. CDC recommends an annual flu vaccination for everyone age 6 months or older.
Flu resources from A to Z from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and partners
NFID public service announcement (:30 animated video) on the impact of flu on adults age 65 years and older
NFID has compiled a list of resources and strategies to increase immunization rates among healthcare professionals