Workers get flu shot if co-workers do, study says

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Increasing vaccination rates of health care personnel substantially improves patient safety, lowering flu deaths by 40 percent, researchers suggest.

Epidemiologists and computer scientists at University of Iowa Health Care found that health care personnel are more likely to be vaccinated if their “close contact” co-workers — referred to as neighbors in the study — are vaccinated.

The researchers constructed a social network of hospital-based health care personnel as a proxy for social relationships to examine the impact of co-workers' vaccination status on the vaccine status of their neighbors.

Donald Curtis, a computer science graduate student, constructed a social network of more than 6,500 health care personnel using data, stripped of personal details to protect privacy, from UIHC's electronic medical record system, including login time, location and vaccination status.

When vaccination data were compared with login information, researchers were able to confirm the level of vaccinated neighbors for each individual, UPI reported March 18.

The researchers found that unvaccinated health care personnel tended to be more isolated and have fewer vaccinated co-workers. By comparison, vaccinated health care personnel tend to have more interactions with co-workers and were more likely to be surrounded by more vaccinated co-workers.

The findings were presented at the Fifth Decennial International Conference on Health care-Associated Infections in Atlanta.