A new immunization campaign against influenza among physicians and other health workers has been launched by the World Medical Association.
The announcement comes as the World Health Organization begins its Immunization Week under the slogan, “Protect your world – get vaccinated”.
With the support of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, the WMA campaign intends to raise physicians’ awareness globally of the importance of influenza vaccination among healthcare professionals to protect their patients and families. A special goal of the campaign is to encourage physicians to serve as role models by getting seasonal flu shots themselves.
Dr. Cecil Wilson, President of the WMA, said: ‘Influenza outbreaks represent a significant global health threat that is frequently overlooked. The medical community has an ethical obligation to act with the safety of patients as its foremost interest.
Physicians and other healthcare workers are key in preventing the transmission of infections in clinical settings. By getting immunized, physicians can set an example for all healthcare workers, patients and the general public on the importance of getting seasonal flu vaccines to protect health.’
Dr. Wilson said that the WMA has already taken important steps to encourage immunization among health workers. For example, last year’s WMA General Assembly adopted a policy on the prioritization of immunization, calling on its member associations all over the world ‘to promote the evidence base and increase awareness about the benefits of immunization amongst physicians and the public.’
According to the World Health Organization, influenza causes 250,000 to 500,000 annual deaths worldwide. Influenza outbreaks have serious implications for patients’ health and disease outcomes. The Center for Disease Control estimates that in the United States alone, an average season of influenza results in tens of thousands of deaths and up to 200,000 hospitalizations due to influenza-related causes. The most effective way to prevent transmission of influenza from healthcare workers to patients is immunization, yet immunization rates even in developed countries, such as the USA, remain low – around 40 per cent, in contrast to the CDC recommendation of ‘vaccination of 100 per cent of employees who do not have medical contraindications.’
The WMA educational campaign will consistently emphasize the importance of health worker immunization for patient safety and quality of care, and physicians’ role in driving the change.