Friday, December 18, 2015

The Tale of Two Studies

I was fortunate enough to run across these two studies released on the same day this week.  So please compare and contrast:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 National Institutes of Health - Less than half of Americans strongly believe that the flu shot will help them avoid the illness, and one-third don’t believe it will protect them at all, a new study finds.

The fact that The Harris Poll turned up so many full shot doubters is troubling, one expert said, because immunization does offer protection.

“Vaccination can provide as much as 60-70% guarantee of protection against the flu,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.  “Why shouldn’t everyone said as much protection as possible?”

However, the online survey of 2,225 adults, conducted in mid-October, found that 32% didn’t think flu vaccination would protect them, while only 43% “strongly believed” a flu shot offers help against the virus.

And nearly half of those surveyed - 42% - thought “people take the flu season too seriously.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 National Institutes of Health - More than half of U.S. hospitals  don’t require health care providers to get a seasonal flu shot, a new study finds.

In the 2013 survey of infection control specialists at 386 hospitals nationwide, about 43% said flu vaccination was mandatory for all health care providers.  About 10% more said their hospital would require the shot the next flu season.

The researchers also found that only 1.3% of Veterans Affairs hospitals required all health care providers to get a flu shot.  The VA wants near-universal flu vaccination in tis hospitals by 2020, according to the study in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

A number of national recommendations say all health care workers should receive seasonal flu vaccination.

“Vaccination of health care workers has been shown to significantly reduce patients’ risk of influenza and its complications, including pneumonia and death, compared with vaccination of patients alone,” study senior author Dr. Sanjay Saint, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, said in a university news release.

My Take:
It is very difficult to convince the public of the value of the flu shot when hospital health care workers won’t “swallow the kool-aid”.  It reminds of the majority of oncologists who refuse chemotherapy and/or radiation when the very treatment they prescribe is recommended for them.

I have always thought that immunization was a matter of potential risk versus potential benefit.  For health care workers in hospitals treating sick patients whose immune systems are impaired, I think the potential benefit to the patient outweighs the risk to the health care provider.  But for the healthy individual, here in the U.S. with our sanitation standards, I believe the risk of immunization often outweighs the risk of complications from the flu.

The Bottom Line:
The flu shot is a voluntary immunization that should stay that way.  It is up to the individual to stay informed on the relative risks and benefits and make their own decision.

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