Influenza vaccination rates among Oregon health care workers continue a steady rise, but they still fall short of national immunization goals, a new state report shows.
While health care worker flu vaccination rates have grown more than 40 percent between the 2011-2012 and 2016-2017 flu seasons, the 2016-2017 season’s overall rate of 73 percent is just below the national Healthy People 2015 goal of a 75 percent flu vaccination rate. And it is far short of the Healthy People 2020 goal of 90 percent, according to the Oregon Health Care Worker Influenza Vaccination Annual Report: 2016-2017 Season. The report was published this week by the Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section at the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division.
“Flu vaccination among health care workers is extremely important,” said Rebecca Pierce, PhD, manager of the Healthcare-Associated Infections and Emerging Infections programs in the Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section. “These workers’ care for vulnerable individuals, including patients who are at risk of serious illness and even death if exposed to the flu virus. Health care workers need to be our first line of defense—flu vaccination protects the safety of patients and our health care workforce.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed the Healthy People program with 10-year objectives for improving the health of all Americans.
Among health facility types, dialysis facilities in Oregon have the highest flu vaccination rates, beating the Healthy People 2015 goal and coming the closest to the Healthy People 2020 goal. Dialysis facilities’ rate of 85 percent during the 2016-2017 flu season represents a slight drop from 89 percent the year before.
Hospitals also beat the national 2015 goal for worker immunizations against the flu, coming in at a rate of 79.5 percent during the 2016-2017 season, but still short of the 2020 goal. Since the 2011-2012 season, rates of flu immunizations among health care workers at hospitals has risen almost 35 percent.
Coming in below both the 2015 and 2020 national goals for health care worker vaccinations were ambulatory surgery centers and skilled nursing facilities. Ambulatory surgery centers had a rate of 72 percent during the 2016-2017 season, an increase of 41 percent from 2011-2012, while the rate at skilled nursing facilities was even lower: 57 percent during 2016-2017, representing only a 21 percent increase since 2011-2012. That rate also represented a 9.5 percent drop from the 2015-2016 season.
Pierce said publication of the report each year tracks progress toward the Healthy People 2020 goal and directs public health action, showing where additional support and education is needed.
To achieve 90 percent vaccination coverage, health care facilities can take some important steps. Among the recommendations included in the Oregon Health Care Worker Influenza Vaccination Annual Report are encouraging health care workers, including those not employed by the facility such as contractors and volunteers, to get vaccinated at the beginning of every influenza season. Facilities can host promotional activities, such as holding mass vaccination fairs, providing vaccines at no cost to employees, starting incentive programs, and documenting all employees’ vaccination status and requiring staff members who forgo vaccination to turn in a form saying they decline to be vaccinated.
“We can do better,” Pierce said. “While 90 percent vaccination rate is our goal for the next two years, a 100 percent vaccination rate is what we’d really like to see.”
The report is available on the OHA website.
Source: Oregon Health Authority