Hospital workers are asking the same questions about the safety and necessity of flu vaccines as the general public, according to a survey conducted by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).
The survey of pharmacy directors at 341 hospitals across the country raise troubling concerns about whether health care workers will choose to get vaccinated against H1N1 and seasonal flu.
ASHP advocates that all health care workers should receive an annual influenza vaccination. "It is extremely important that health care workers, as well as all hospital staff, get vaccinated for both H1N1 and seasonal flu," said ASHP President Lynnae Mahaney, M.B.A., FASHP. "Health care workers come into contact with so many people, it is vital that they are vaccinated to minimize the risk to patients."
The survey finds that both patients and hospital staff are asking pharmacists the following questions:
- Is the H1N1 vaccine safe?
- Do I need to get the H1N1 vaccine?
- Will there be enough H1N1 vaccine to around?
"The H1N1 vaccine is prepared using the same methods as the seasonal flu vaccine," said Mahaney. "Clinical testing shows this vaccine is safe and should definitely be used by people who are at most risk." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the following groups of people should be vaccinated for H1N1 as soon as possible:
- Pregnant women,
- People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age,
- Health care and emergency medical services personnel,
- Persons between 6 months and 24 years old, and
- Persons between 25 and 64 years old who are at higher risk because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.
Once the above groups have been vaccinated, the CDC recommends vaccinating everyone between 25 and 64 years of age.
The survey finds that hospitals are preparing for possible staffing shortages caused by the pandemic by identifying minimum staffing levels, differentiating between critical and non-essential services, and planning to reassign job responsibilities. In addition, the survey reveals that nearly all pharmacy departments surveyed are collaborating with local and state health departments to coordinate H1N1 response efforts in the community.
While pharmacists are authorized to administer vaccinations to adults, the survey also finds that most hospitals are not planning to utilize pharmacists for this service. "ASHP encourages hospitals and health systems to consider using pharmacists to administer vaccines in order to help increase vaccination rates," said Mahaney. "Especially in light of reports of cuts in public health budgets at the state and local level that may leave communities understaffed for these important efforts."
The survey also shows gaps in seasonal flu vaccination rates for health care workers, with only 37 percent of respondents reporting vaccination rates over 70 percent at their hospitals. "That''s too low," said Mahaney, who cautioned this finding suggests there may be a similar gap in H1N1 vaccinations for health care workers.