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Health care personnel urged to 'set an example' by getting flu shots

Washington—Public health officials and private sector medical organizations initiated a national campaign for the fall and winter flu season to increase vaccination rates by urging the nation's health care personnel "to set an example for the patients they serve" and protect themselves.

Vaccination rates were less than 50 percent among the nation's health care personnel in 2007, the Department of Health and Human Services said in launching the public-private initiative. HHS wants to improve the health personnel rates to 60 percent by 2010 to meet a national Healthy People goal. National survey data demonstrated a vaccination coverage level during the 2005-2006 flu season of 42 percent among health care personnel, according to the CDC advisory committee on immunization practices (MMWR, 2007/56(RR06);1-54)

Available data does not offer breakdowns by medical, dental or other type of health care personnel. Vaccination of health care personnel has been associated with reduced work absenteeism and with fewer deaths among nursing home patients and elderly hospitalized patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual vaccination against influenza for all health care personnel, defined to include dental personnel, as well as those in training for health care professions.

The HHS initiative to improve influenza vaccination offers a toolkit for health care personnel at www.hhs.gov/ophs/programs/initiatives/vacctoolkit/index.html. HHS plans to partner with national medical, hospital and other organizations to promote the initiative and to measure its effectiveness.

"By being vaccinated, health care personnel decrease their likelihood of contracting influenza and decrease the chance of infecting others," the HHS announcement said.