Doctors, nurses more than twice as likely to get flu shots than general population

Figure still remains too low to prevent medical staff from infecting patients.

Vaccination against the flu (photo credit: CLALIT HEALTH SERVICES)
Vaccination against the flu
Even though the Israel Medical Association has opposed the use of special tags to show which doctors and nurses have been immunized this season against the flu, between 28 percent and 36% of medical staffers in the general, geriatric, and psychiatric hospitals went for their protective shot by November 1.
The Health Ministry reports that 33% to 37% of physicians consented when asked to get vaccinated, but just 23% to 33% of the nurses did the same -- even though they are in close contact with patients.
Flu shots – recommended to everyone in the country over six months old – are considered very important in medical institutions, because doctors and nurses can infect patients, and patients can infect medical staffers. Sick personnel have to miss work, resulting in even more shorthanded staffs. When patients are infected by medical personnel, potentially deadly nosocomial infections that are caused only in hospitals may occur.
The IMA had said it encourages its members to get flu shots, but said it is “wrong” and “violates freedom” for those who were vaccinated to show it by wearing tags and setting apart those who were not.
Only two of the four public health funds – Clalit Health Services and Maccabi Health Services – reported to the ministry on their staffs’ vaccination rates. At Clalit, the largest, 42% got their shots, including 55% of the nurses and 49% of the doctors. At Maccabi, the second largest, just 38% of the nurses and 16% of the doctors did so.
In the general population, 1.49 million Israelis of all ages – or 18.2% of the population – have been vaccinated at their health fund clinics. The pace is faster than last year, as during the comparable period in 2013 just 13% got the shot. The rate of vaccination in the elderly population, many of whom have weak immune systems and chronic diseases – has risen to 59%, which is considerably higher than last year.
Every year, but especially during the colder months, some 1,500 to 2,000 Israelis die of complications of the flu. This year’s flu is expected to be more dangerous, because it has shown to cause more cases and more serious ones in Australia, which has passed its winter and is now in the spring.