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"Low staff vaccination rates put vulnerable populations at risk of contracting influenza," wrote the authors of the study in the February issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.
As many as 7,300 nursing home residents die of the flu each year, according to the researchers.
Researchers from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and Florida Health Care Association surveyed nearly 2,000 employees at 37 nursing homes in Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin and found that only 54 percent of them had received a flu vaccination during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 flu seasons.
Previous research found that 72 percent of nursing home residents get a flu shot. Nursing home residents are susceptible to the flu, and high vaccination rates among staff can provide them with extra protection, the researchers wrote in a news release from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), which publishes the journal.
"As evidence accumulates questioning the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine in older adults, it is increasingly important to consider staff as a source of influenza transmission," the researchers added.
The study authors also found that many nursing home workers have mistaken beliefs about the flu and vaccination. Nearly 40 percent incorrectly thought that the vaccine could cause the flu.
Workers who knew that wasn't true were 12 percent more likely to get vaccinated. And, those who believed that vaccination was effective were 28 percent more likely to get vaccinated, the researchers found.
"Vaccination rates would be higher if staff held accurate beliefs about vaccination and influenza," the researchers concluded.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, news release, Jan. 27, 2015