Unvaccinated doctors not so threatening

Key studies cited in support of mandatory flu vaccination of doctors and nurses are flawed, undermining the claim that unvaccinated healthcare workers (HCWs) pose a high threat to patients, researchers say.

Infectious diseases physician Professor Peter Collignon, from the Australian National University, and international colleagues say basic mathematical principles have been flouted in the studies which massively over-estimate the effect of health care worker vaccination.

One British trial found that one patient death would be prevented for every eight HCWs vaccinated.

That suggests the effect of healthcare workers vaccination was tantamount to averting a 1918 Spanish flu-like pandemic annually in US hospitals, an “untenable conclusion” given that nowhere near that number die, say the researchers from Australia, Canada and France.

They say mandatory flu vaccination is increasingly being enforced but the ethical premise hinges on valid demonstration of patient benefit substantial enough to justify infringement of the personal rights of healthcare workers who might choose to avoid annual shots.

“The impression that unvaccinated healthcare workers place their patients at great influenza peril is exaggerated,” they write.