Long-term care workers 'the worst' when it comes to flu vaccine

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Long-term care workers 'the worst' when it comes to flu vaccine
Long-term care workers 'the worst' when it comes to flu vaccine

Many employee groups achieved significant increases in flu vaccination rates last season, but nursing home workers weren't among them, according to federal officials who handed out a “report card” on Thursday. 

Last year, the worst rate improvements occurred among people working in long-term care facilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While 72% of healthcare workers overall and 90% of physicians were vaccinated last year, only 59% of long-term employees got shots. “Non-medical personnel” dragged down averages overall at healthcare facilities, officials noted.

For long-term care operators, the findings are a familiar refrain. As is the vow by federal health officials to improve LTC rates.

"If you are around people at high risk for flu complications, you need to get vaccinated. And nowhere is this need clearer than in our nation's hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities,” said Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a Thursday morning press conference in Washington.

Vaccination rates for adults 65 and over were the highest, with nearly two-thirds (66%) getting a flu shot, officials said. Vaccine effectiveness hovered at about just 50% overall, they noted.

But they hastened to add that seniors who get vaccinated are much more likely to have milder symptoms if the flu bug still hits.

Last season, intense flu activity hit about a month earlier than anticipated, in late 2012, affecting senior populations the harshest. Hospitalizations among the 65 & older group hit their highest rates in eight years.

Officials estimate that more than 30,000 out of 36,000 deaths that can be attributed to flu conditions each year occur in the 65 and older age group.

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