Flu Vaccination of HCWs May Offer Protective Effect for Patients in Residential Care Settings

Healthcare workers may transmit respiratory infection to patients. Two recent systematic reviews considered the evidence for indirect protection of vulnerable patient groups after staff influenza vaccination; they suggest that vaccination of healthcare workers might be effective for reducing death and influenza-like illness (ILI) among elderly residents, but there may not be comparable data related to other at-risk groups.  Dolan, et al. (2012) aimed to identify and assess further evidence for the effect of vaccinating healthcare workers on patient groups most vulnerable to severe or complicated respiratory illness.

The researchers assessed evidence for the effectiveness of vaccinating healthcare workers to provide indirect protection for patients at risk for severe or complicated disease after acute respiratory infection.  They searched electronic healthcare databases and sources of gray literature by using a predefined strategy. Risk for bias was assessed by using validated tools, and results were synthesized by using a narrative approach. Seventeen of the 12,352 identified citations met the full inclusion criteria, and three additional articles were identified from reference or citation tracking.

All considered influenza vaccination of healthcare workers, and most were conducted in long-term residential care settings. The reserachers say that consistency in the direction of effect was observed across several different outcome measures, suggesting a likely protective effect for patients in residential care settings. However, they add that the evidence was insufficient for them to confidently extrapolate this to other at-risk patient groups. Their work was published in the August 2012 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Reference: Dolan GP , Harris RC, et al.  Vaccination of Health Care Workers to Protect Patients at Increased Risk for Acute Respiratory Disease. Emer Infect Dis. Vol. 18, No.  8. August 2012.