Influenza vaccination rates have plateaued in recent years, including among health care providers—a trend that may increase the risk of an outbreak, according to data released Thursday by CDC.
US flu vaccination rates stagnate
CDC data show vaccination rates for the last two flu seasons have remained at about 59 percent among children between six months old and age 17, and at about 43 percent among adults.
Overall, for the 2016 to 2017 flu season, CDC reported a 46.8 percent vaccination rate for people six months or older—about a 1.2 percentage point increase from the previous year's flu season. The lowest vaccination rates were for adults ages 18 to 49 at just 33.6 percent.
Vaccination rates among health care workers similarly have not increased significantly, with vaccination rates hovering around 75 percent to 79 percent since the 2013-2014 flu season.
CDC data show physicians were the most likely to be vaccinated last year, with 95.8 percent receiving the vaccination in the 2016-2017 flu season. Other health care providers with the highest vaccination rates included pharmacists (93.7 percent), nurses (92,6 percent), and NPs and physician assistants (92 percent). Vaccination rates were lowest among other clinical health care personnel (80 percent), assistants and aides (69.1 percent), and nonclinical health care personnel (73.7 percent), according to CDC.
As in previous years, CDC data show the health care worker vaccination rate was highest in hospital settings at 92.3 percent, while workers at long-term care facilities had the lowest vaccination rate at 68 percent. Health care facilities that mandated flu shots among workers had the highest vaccination rates, ranging from 90 percent in long-term care facilities to about 98 percent in hospital settings. Vaccination rates also were high at facilities that made vaccinations available on-site.
Kathleen Neuzil, director of the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said that health care employers need to do a better job of encouraging their nonclinical workers to get vaccinated. "We need to make it easy for [nonclinical workers] to get vaccinated, the same way we have for the doctors and the nurses," she said.
Former HHS official urges everyone to get vaccinated
Former HHS Secretary Tom Price on Thursday said that last year's flu vaccine had an efficacy rate of 42 percent and prevented over 5.4 million flu cases, as well as 2.7 million doctor's visits and 86,000 hospitalizations.
Price, prior to his resignation Friday amid fallout from his use of private planes for work-related travel, urged health care providers to promote the vaccines to their patients. "Doctors and other providers are incredibly important in this," he said. "Your recommendations are crucial to motivating patients to get vaccinated" (Ross Johnson, Modern Healthcare, 9/28; AHA News, 9/28; Ault, Medscape, 9/28).
How to achieve universal employee flu vaccination
In just a few years, Einstein Healthcare Network's employee flu vaccination rate skyrocketed from 30 percent to consistently greater than 98 percent. Learn how they did it.