Targeting flu vaccination uptake by health care workers

Dr Rob Ruiter

Dr Rob Ruiter

September 14th, 2011

Dr Rob Ruiter

‘We know influenza uptake by health care workers (HCWs) helps to reduce the spread of the flu virus to vulnerable patients. So what can we do to boost immunisation rates among HCWs?’

Care-workersInfluenza vaccination rates among frontline health staff are too low despite the fact that flu is easily preventable in healthy HCWs – whereas vaccination is less effective in at-risk patients and frail elderly.

But while immunisation is safe and cheap, vaccination rates among health professionals are far below the coverage of at-risk patients. This is especially true for nurses, but the figures for doctors are also less than ideal.

In The Netherlands, influenza vaccination rates among GPs increased from 36% in 2006 to 63% in 2009. However, this still falls well short of the goal of a 90% coverage rate.

Successful strategies for increasing vaccination coverage could significantly decrease the exposure of older patients to the flu virus and may also help to avoid influenza-related absenteeism among HCWs.

There is an ongoing debate about the role of non-voluntary health promotion interventions. Many organisations have called for mandatory vaccination for HCWs. Without a resolution to this ethical debate, voluntary interventions are widely used and encouraged.

We believe applying Intervention Mapping (IM) – a planning process for the systematic theory- and evidence-based development of health promotion interventions – in the influenza vaccination field may help the development of effective behavior change interventions.

IM consists of needs assessment, programme objectives, methods and applications, program development, planning for program implementation, and planning for program evaluation.

We are working on a paper to develop this idea in more depth and are preparing further research to provide the data for optimal program planning. In the meantime, our advice to doctors and nurses is to be vaccinated.

Dr Robert A.C. Ruiter, Work & Social Psychology, Maastricht University, the Netherlands, is addressing this week’s ESWI influenza conference in Malta