Don’t look now, but cold and flu season is just around the corner. During the months of August and September, the private manufacturers of the annual influenza vaccine are shipping supplies out to thousands of locations around the country. An important discussion crops up among healthcare workers every year at this time about whether or not to get the flu shot. The most recent data shows that flu shot coverage for healthcare workers overall was around 64%, while over 89% of registered nurses elected to receive the immunization. This year’s flu shot is designed to protect against three strains of flu virus, including the H1N1 virus, and while it is not infallible, when the flu vaccine formulation is close to the circulating flu viruses, the shot is over 70% effective. According to the Mayo Clinic, the flu shot is the best defense against contracting seasonal influenza.
For nurses and other workers in a health care environment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend receiving the annual influenza vaccine. Nurses and others providing medical care are at a greater risk of being exposed to an influenza virus, leading many states to implement laws requiring hospital workers and others to receive the vaccine, unless they qualify for an exemption. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why nurses should get their annual influenza vaccine.
To Protect Patients, Family, and Self. As stated earlier, no flu vaccine is 100% effective, but being proactive about increasing your odds of avoiding a potentially harmful illness is good for you, your loved ones, and the people in your care. Each year, up to one in five Americans will contract the flu virus with more than 200,000 needing to be hospitalized and over 36,000 flu-related deaths.
Practice What You Preach. The American Nurses Association (ANA) issues an annual statement recommending that all registered nurses receive the seasonal flu vaccine. Also, the ANA is in alignment with the position of the CDC regarding flu shot guidance. As a nurse, your Code of Ethics advises that you have an ethical duty to abide by the same health maintenance measures that you are teaching your patients. Additionally, public sentiment is strongly in favor of healthcare workers receiving the flu vaccine as polling shows that more than 87% want those charged with their care to be vaccinated.
Employer Requirements. If you are a travel nurse or a nurse who is looking for a new opportunity, the chances are that your new or potential employer will prefer that you have a flu shot. Instead of limiting your opportunities, it is best to agree to the flu shot and eliminate that being a potential barrier in your career.
Major Health Organizations Agree. Let’s face it; it is a rarity for major organizations to agree on anything, but the recommendation that nurses and others who are caring for patients with chronic health issues and compromised immune systems should all receive an annual flu shot is universal. The CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the American Nurses Association are all urging healthcare workers to receive seasonal flu vaccinations. Universal agreement of this nature is rare and should carry significant weight in any immunization decision.
The annual flu shot is a topic worthy of serious discussion and consideration, and we want you to weigh in. In the comment section below, or on our Facebook page, share your thoughts on this topic and let us know if you plan to get your flu shot and why.