Participants in the survey were asked a series of questions designed to establish their level of knowledge and understanding of seasonal flu and the vaccine, including their perception of the risk and severity of flu; they were also asked for their vaccination history and intent for the current season and for their reasons for accepting or refusing the vaccine.
Professor Alison While, Professor of Community Nursing and Associate Dean of Education and External Affairs at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, said:
“Our preliminary findings reveal that the influenza vaccination programme for healthcare workers is more complicated than just targeting those who haven’t been vaccinated this season. Within our sample of more than 500 nurses, we were able to divide those who had been vaccinated into the newly vaccinated and those who have continuously been vaccinated; and the unvaccinated into those who had never accepted the vaccine and those who used to accept the vaccine. It is important that we understand all four groups in order to develop different strategies that target unvaccinated healthcare workers.”
Annual epidemics of seasonal flu result in about 3 – 5 million cases of severe illness and 250,000 – 500,000 deaths worldwide, and healthcare workers can be a key factor in the spread of flu. While vaccination rates among the 522 nurses who were surveyed were higher than previous reports, at 37%, the report authors believe this might, in part, be explained by heightened media coverage of the risk of seasonal flu and H1N1 pandemics in 2009. A further 44.9% reported never receiving a vaccination during the previous five years.
Professor While continued:
“There are several conclusions we can draw from these preliminary research findings to develop future educational and communications campaigns aimed at improving uptake of the flu vaccine among nurses and other healthcare workers. There is a clear group of ‘persistent decliners’ who are in the ‘habit’ of not having the vaccination. Campaigns will therefore need to be persistent, durative and intensive. There also appears to have been an increase in the percentage of vaccinated nurses following greater media coverage of the risk of H1N1 flu, which suggests timing may be crucial to the success of vaccination campaigns.
“However, what is also clear is that more research needs to be undertaken to examine the relationship between the content and timing of vaccination campaigns and nurses’ first uptake.”
Professor Ian Norman, Associate Dean for Staff Development at the School, added:
“Since concerns about the vaccine’s side-effects and effectiveness were the two most common reasons given for refusing the vaccine, future campaigns must focus on targeting information to dispel these widespread myths.”