We know that vaccines protect our children from a whole host of infectious diseases, saving millions of lives in the process. But they also have the added benefit of people being less likely to miss days of work.
This may seem like an obvious conclusion to come to, but previous studies looking into the impact of vaccinating healthcare workers against the flu have tended to focus on the outcome of the patients they look after, rather than the workers themselves. When it comes to the staff, there had been conflicting evidence on what effect vaccinations had on absenteeism.
Now, a wide-ranging study covering over 4,000 healthcare workers has compared the amount of time taken off sick over three flu seasons between institutions that employ mandatory vaccination policies and those that do not.
They found that workplaces in which all staff that could get vaccinated were made to, absenteeism was around 6 percent lower than those in which workers had a choice. On an individual level, however, the differences were even starker. Healthcare workers who were vaccinated had an impressive 30 percent reduction in absenteeism when compared to their unvaccinated colleagues.
“Studies suggest that higher vaccination rates among healthcare workers decrease patient mortality and health care associated inﬂuenza in certain settings,” explained UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Dr Trish Perl, who co-authored this latest paper looking into the impact of vaccination, published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. “In addition, absenteeism can pose a serious threat to how effectively a hospital is able to manage the surge of patients during an outbreak.”
This latest research has shown how if workers are made to get their yearly flu vaccine, not only does it clearly benefit the patients they are treating, but it also maintains better staffing levels. This can be critical, particularly during the winter when flu is more prevalent and hospitals and health centers experience surges in patient numbers. Making staff get vaccinations, therefore, helps members of the public on multiple levels.
It also helps those who are not necessarily visiting health centers. As we should all know by now, herd immunity works to protect others who might not be able to get vaccinated for health reasons if, for example, someone has a compromised immune system. Vaccines don't just protect you, but those around you too.