Flu Vaccination: of critical importance for healthcare professionals

February 19, 2013

As you have recently heard through news reports, the Centers for Disease Control is reporting a “worse than average flu season this year.” There have been 30 pediatric deaths in the United States, including four in New York State, as well as sharp increases in hospitalization among seniors.

Here at Helen Hayes Hospital, we take care of people undergoing physical rehabilitation, many who are at the highest risk for influenza complications. These include patients with diabetes, asthma, cancer, kidney disease and transplants. In addition, patients who have recently sustained devastating injuries, who are still recovering and may have compromised immune systems, are also at increased risk. This is why we encourage our staff to receive the vaccine.

Like our colleagues at health facilities nationwide, we all work diligently to care for our patients. Caregivers wouldn’t consider taking care of or being around a patient if they didn’t have their Measles or Rubella vaccination. Yet some are adamantly opposed to receiving a flu vaccine. We strongly suggest that the same consideration should be taken with regard to the flu vaccination. Every healthcare worker should feel obliged to protect their patients in this very important way by receiving a flu vaccine.

Other important facts to consider are:
•Influenza is a serious respiratory disease that kills an average of 36,000 persons and hospitalizes more than 200,000 persons in the U.S. each year.
Influenza vaccination is recommended to prevent influenza disease and its complications, including death.
A person that becomes infected with influenza, even with mild symptoms, can spread severe illness to others.
If a person contracts influenza, the virus can be shed for 24-48 hours before the symptoms appear. The virus can then be spread to patients and others.

The flu vaccine is safe, effective, necessary and available! Also know, you will not get the flu from the vaccine. The vaccine is inactivated. It’s NOT TOO LATE to receive the vaccine this year. INFLUENZA is STILL PEAKING——you will be protected from the flu within two weeks of receiving the vaccine.

We, as healthcare workers, must be ready to provide care during this period of community stress. We need to be healthy to care for our patients who rely on us. Those who refuse to receive the flu vaccine are endangering their own health as well as the health of their patients, co-workers, their family and those they come in contact with in the community. Truly, it is our obligation to receive the flu vaccine. If you have not yet received your flu vaccine yet, PLEASE RECONSIDER.

The life you save may be your own, your patient’s, your family member, or someone you don’t even know. As the hospital’s Medical Director of Employee Health, I would urge everyone, and most especially health care workers, to receive a flu vaccine.
-Patricia S. Ruppert, DO, FAAFP
Medical Director, Employee Health