As the influenza season approaches, I am once again writing to you to draw your attention to the need to protect health care workers from influenza in order to safeguard their own health, the health of their families, and that of their vulnerable patients.
As you are aware, influenza is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in Canada, especially among the elderly and frail. Because frail people develop less protection from influenza immunization than young, healthy adults, those who may expose the elderly and frail to the influenza virus can play a critical role in preventing outbreaks by being immunized. I am, therefore, asking for your cooperation and support in our push to increase influenza vaccination coverage among all health care workers in BC.
Despite our efforts in the past few years to promote influenza immunization in BC, only 64% of health care workers in our long-term care, extended care, and intermediate-care facilities were immunized during the 2008/09 influenza season. This is a decrease of almost 2% from the previous season, moving us further from our goal.
Rates of staff vaccination in acute care facilities are lower (42% in 2008/09, a decrease of 3% from the previous season). Rates in both long-term care and acute care were even lower during the 2009/10 season, with a drop to 49% for seasonal vaccine and 45% for pandemic H1N1 vaccine in long-term care and 35% for seasonal and 46% pandemic vaccine in acute care. I would like to reach the provincial goal of 80% this season.
In addition, we also aim to increase coverage in high-risk groups in the community—seniors and people with chronic health conditions—as well as their informal caregivers and family.
Complete details on eligibility criteria for publicly funded influenza vaccine are available from your local health unit or on the ImmunizeBC web site at: www.immunizebc.ca/VaccSched/Vaccine+Schedules.htm.
I would like to acknowledge the good work you have done toward this effort in previous years and your commitment to this vital program for protecting those at risk from this serious but preventable illness. I greatly appreciate your continued assistance in reaching your patients with this important public health message. And, of course, I encourage you and your staff to get your influenza shots as well.
—P.R.W. Kendall, MBBS
Provincial Health Officer
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