There’s no vaccine for the influenza subtype, H5N1, of most concern as the agent of the next pandemic but evidence exists that there is some cross-reactivity with existing seasonal vaccines (it’s not clear how much if any, but it might not take much) or that previous vaccination with seasonal vaccine produces a much quicker response to an H5N1 vaccine. Moreover there remains a substantial toll in morbidity and mortality from the seasonal influenza which the current vaccines are designed for. So strategies to encourage key populations to get the existing flu vaccine are of interest to public health officials. CDC just released results of a survey they did in 2004 about the different ways nursing homes (where influenza can spread rapidly with lethal effect) used to get their employees vaccinated. Here is the survey question and a summary of the answers:
Survey question: “Does (facility) do any of the following to encourage employees’ influenza vaccinations? Vaccinations recommended; vaccinations offered on site; vaccinations offered for free; staff incentives provided for vaccination; proof of vaccination (or contraindication) required as a condition of work/employment; furlough or patient restriction policy for employees developing influenza-like illness; none of the above.” Facilities could select all strategies that apply.
Results: In 2004, the majority (63%) of nursing homes reported <60% employees had received an influenza shot last influenza season. In 2004, nursing homes used different strategies to promote influenza vaccination among employees. Three of these strategies (offering free vaccinations, furloughing employees with influenza-like illness, and requiring proof of vaccination) were significantly associated with staff influenza vaccination rates >60%. Only 1% of surveyed facilities did not use at least one of the strategies. (CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports [MMWR])
Here’s a bar graph (because how would you know it was scientific if we didn’t show you a bar graph?):