A new analysis published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that vaccination rates among healthcare workers in Canada are less than 50%, well below the level necessary for herd immunity.
By comparison, a September 2013 article in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that vaccination rates among U.S. healthcare workers was 92.3% for physicians, 89.1% for pharmacists, 88.5% for nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and 84.8% for nurses.
According to the CDC, the estimated herd immunity threshold for many diseases is at least three-quarters of the population or more. For mumps, for example, 75% to 86% of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. For polio, the estimate is 80% to 86%, while pertussis is 92% to 94%.
With recent outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases in developed countries making headlines lately, vaccination of healthcare workers could have a positive impact on patient health.
The analysis points out that mandatory influenza vaccination as a condition of employment for healthcare workers or a requirement for these employees to wear a mask during flu season could contain rates of the virus, which has the most deleterious impact on infants, the elderly and immunocomprised people--individuals most likely to be in a hospital or other healthcare setting.
The journal article says many healthcare workers favor such condition-of-service influenza vaccination policies.
In the U.S., laws regarding vaccination for healthcare workers vary by state. In Canada, condition-of-service policies must comply with employment law, provincial human rights codes and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Condition-of-service policies that apply to unionized employees must be consistent with collective labor agreements.
- see the study abstract (sub. req.)
- read the press release