Physicians need to lead the way by getting the influenza vaccine

LETTER — Posted Nov. 14, 2011

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Regarding "Too few health professionals getting flu shots" (link): I was appalled after reading this article. The low percentage -- 63.5% -- of health care workers getting immunized is a serious problem to patients, particularly those with chronic illnesses. It is of vital importance that we increase awareness of this problem among health care workers throughout the United States to change the attitudes and behaviors.

In the practice setting, physicians are role models for patients as well as their staffs to "first do no harm." We as physicians need to practice what we preach. We must get the influenza vaccine. The efficacy of getting the flu vaccine has decreased absenteeism among health care workers.

The success of increasing the percentage of physicians and other health care workers to get the influenza vaccine may be enforced by implementing written policies requesting or mandating that all staff get immunized unless contraindicated. For those who don't comply, there could be interventions such as discussing the safety of the vaccine and clarification of concerns to break the barrier, thus preventing the transmission of the flu to other staff and patients.

Increasing awareness and compliance of getting the influenza vaccine needs to start early in training with medical students, residents, nursing students, nursing assistants, and other health care workers and instructors to decrease the transmission of this deadly disease in the U.S.

Linda Walden, MD, Cairo, Ga.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/11/14/edlt1114.htm.

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