One in five Mater Dei workers don’t see benefit of influenza vaccine

Roughly a third said they didn't get vaccinated because of potential side-effects

No vaccination for some doctors...
No vaccination for some doctors...

Roughly one in five healthcare workers at Mater Dei hospital don’t regard the Influenza vaccine as beneficial, according to the findings of a research paper published in the Malta Medical School Gazette.

The study sought to determine the uptake of the vaccine and to initiate the necessary changes needed to increase the number of vaccinated workers, both for their own protection and that of their patients.

Healthcare workers run a greater risk of exposure to the influenza virus, owing to their increased contact with the infected patients.

The study found that despite efforts to promote vaccination, there was still a relative under-utilisation of the influenza vaccine among doctors and nurses.

Responses were collected from 130 doctors and nurses through a questionnaire, with nurses receiving a paper version, while doctors were sent an electronic version. The survey was carried out in 2016, and covers the autumn 2015 period.

Respondents included 44 males and 86 females, a majority of whom were aged between 20 and 30. 76 respondents were doctors while 54 were nurses.

Roughly one-third of respondents (33.8%) said they had been vaccinated that season. Of the 44 respondents who said they had been vaccinated, 33 were doctors, representing 43.4% of doctors who responded to the survey. Only 20.3% of nurses who answered the survey said they had been vaccinated.

In general, the results showed that senior doctors and consultants (44%), as well as junior doctors (54%), were considerably more likely to get vaccinated when compared to middle grade doctors (18%).

The authors said there were a number of misconceptions about the severity of the virus and a lack of knowledge on the benefits

Fear of side-effects

A total of 86 respondents reported not having gotten vaccinated, of which, 44% said they had not done so because of issues related to side effects. In fact, 24% reported not getting vaccinated because of a fear of side effects, while a further 20% said they had a past history of side effects.

A further 19% of respondents said they had forgotten to get vaccinated, but perhaps the more surprising statistic was that 31.4% did not believe the vaccine was beneficial. This belief was more common among middle grade doctors and nursing staff.

In discussing their results, the authors note that the most commonly reported side effect was upper respiratory tract symptoms.

“According to the United State's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the influenza vaccine does not cause influenza since the vaccination is made from the inactivated virus,” they point out, adding, however, that some minor side-effects are known to exist but were limited to low grade fever and pain in the injection site. However, three-quarters of those who reported side-effects as the reason for not getting vaccinated specifically said they had chosen not to do so because of upper respiratory tract symptoms.

“As reported by the CDC, there is no correlation between influenza-like symptoms and the influenza vaccine.”

Among the reasons for workers refusing to make use of the vaccine, which is distributed for free, the authors said there were a number of misconceptions about the severity of the virus and a lack of knowledge on the benefits.

They said that while limited by its relatively small size, the study should serve as a basis for further efforts to ensure more people working in healthcare are vaccinated.

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