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Influenza immunisation: attitudes and beliefs of UK healthcare workers


Aim: To explore attitudes to influenza immunisation and rates of uptake among staff working in acute hospitals in the UK.

Method: A cross-sectional survey of 11 670 healthcare workers in six UK hospitals was carried out using a postal questionnaire.

Results: Among 6302 responders (54% of those mailed), 19% had taken up influenza immunisation during winter 2002/3. Vaccination was well tolerated, with a low prevalence of side effects (13%) and associated time off work (2%). The majority of subjects who accepted vaccination (66%) were most strongly influenced by the personal benefits of protection against influenza. Prevention of sickness absence and protection of patients were the prime motivation for only 10% and 7% of subjects, respectively. Among 3967 who declined vaccination, the most common primary demotivators were concern about safety (31%) and efficacy (29%). 22% were most strongly deterred by lack of time to attend for vaccination. Free text answers indicated that 37% declined because of a perceived low ratio of personal benefits to adverse effects. Subjects said they would be persuaded to take up vaccination in future by easier access (36%), more information about personal benefit and risk (34%) and more information about effects on staff absence (24%).

Conclusions: These findings indicate that the uptake of influenza immunisation among UK healthcare workers remains low. There is some scope for increasing uptake by improving accessibility and encouragement from professional peers. However, the results suggest that perception of small personal benefit in relation to risk mitigates, importantly, against higher uptake of routine annual influenza vaccination. Thus, resource might better be allocated to ensuring efficient management in epidemic years. The effect of publicity about pandemic influenza on risk perception and vaccine uptake among healthcare workers during winter 2005/6 warrants further study.

  • OHDs, occupational health departments
  • PAMs, professions allied to medicine
  • PR, prevalence ratio

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