Not only should all healthcare workers get a flu shot every year, but the vaccinations should be mandatory to protect patients and reduce the risk of major outbreaks, argues a new editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
"Each season, 20 percent of healthcare workers get influenza, and 28 percent of young healthy adults who get it have asymptomatic or subclinical infections," said Dr. Ken Flegel, a senior associate editor of CMAJ. "Some of them may shed virus up to a day before symptoms appear. It is time that all people who work in a health care institution be vaccinated."
Flegel noted studies indicate more than half of physicians do not get vaccinated against te flu, which may put their patients at risk. SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
He argued that flu shots for health workers must be compulsory, but there could be exemptions for medical or religious reasons.
He suggested a vaccination rate above 90 percent is required to prevent outbreaks in hospitals. Flegel added that mandatory programs for healthcare workers in some U.S. medical institutions have resulted in participation rates of about 95 percent.
"Our schools have shown us the way. During measles outbreaks, access to schools has been successfully denied to non-vaccinated children and staff,” he added. “The time has come for healthcare institutions to demand that all healthcare workers be vaccinated. Our patients' lives depend on this change."