CDC to families: Press long-term care staff to get vaccinated for flu

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Problems with this year's flu shot have contributed to a bad season.
Problems with this year's flu shot have contributed to a bad season.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention singled out long-term care professionals in a recent influenza vaccination briefing, calling on them to be vaccinated and urging family members of residents to question workers' vaccination status.

The CDC convened the event to share data about last year's vaccinations and information about the developing flu season. The rate of vaccination among healthcare workers is the same this year as last, with 63% having been vaccinated as of mid-November, said Anne Schuchat, M.D., director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Pharmacists so far have the highest rate of vaccination.

Schuchat said she “especially” wants people working in long-term care to “catch up with the pharmacists.” LTC workers still lag behind other healthcare professionals, even though “the best data” suggests a particular benefit for residents in long-term care facilities with a high rate of worker vaccination, she explained.

To boost the rate of LTC worker vaccination, Schuchat appealed to residents' family members.

“This is something that if you've got a loved one in a long-term care facility, I would ask the caregivers there [if] have they been vaccinated,” she said. “Find out what's going on with the people taking care of the people that you love.”

Flu vaccination is not as effective in the frail elderly as in younger people, Schuchat acknowledged. However, flu vaccination prevented at least 79,000 hospitalizations last year, primarily among children and seniors, she said.

Click here to access a transcript of the briefing, which took place Thursday.