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Nearly half of healthcare workers in California hospitals did not receive flu shots

Flu season may be a bad time to check into a California hospital--and probably everywhere else in the country as well.

In a demonstration of what many experts would call appalling medical ethics, only slightly more than half of healthcare workers in California hospitals received a flu shot last year, despite the dangers that presents for patients. The vaccination rate was less than 25% in 3.3% of the hospitals, according to data compiled by the state health department and obtained by Consumers Union through a Public Records Act request. Moreover, 31% of hospitals in the state did not report their vaccination rate to the health department despite a law requiring it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended flu shots for all healthcare workers, including physicians, with direct patient contact since the early 1980s and for all healthcare workers since 1993. Studies have shown a strong correlation between lack of flu vaccination among hospital workers and patients contracting the disease. When patients who have entered the hospital because they are already sick become infected, the consequences can be severe, even life-threatening. The mortality rate for hospital-acquired flu has been documented at 16%, with an average additional cost of $7,500 per patient, Consumers Union said.

Earlier this week, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology and the Infectious Diseases Society of America said that hospital workers should be required to get a flu shot or lose their jobs unless such an immunization is medically contra-indicated, such as by an allergy to eggs, which are used in manufacturing the vaccines.

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