Caifornia healthcare workers' flu vaccination rates lagging

Only 52 percent of California hospital employees have received flu vaccinations, a new study has shown, despite a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendation that at least 60 percent be vaccinated.

Consumers Union, the non-profit organization that publishes the magazine and website Consumer Reports, conducted the study. It was based predominantly on public California Department of Health records, according to Capital Public Radio.

The study showed that vaccination rates at different hospitals are highly variable. Some hospitals have reported that over 90 percent of their employees were vaccinated against influenza, while others reported much lower numbers. According to California laws, hospitals have to provide access to the influenza vaccine, but do not require employees to actually receive the inoculation.

Hospital worker unions and other trade associations are often opposed to mandatory vaccinations. Some are concerned with employees being pressured to take the shot for fear of losing their jobs, and others question the role of the pharmaceutical companies behind such requirements.

Betsy Imholtz of Consumer Union believes that the low vaccination rates are detrimental to the state’s health.

"It's not nearly enough to prevent vulnerable patients who are in the hospital already in a weakened state from getting flu," Imholtz told Capital Public Radio. "We really need to have a much higher percentage."