Factors affecting influenza vaccination rates in older people admitted to hospital with acute medical problems
Influenza is a major problem both in the community and hospital and elderly people who are at particular risk should be included in vaccination programmes. In August 1998 the Chief Medical Officer for England extended the current influenza immunization policy to include all those aged 75 years or over. However, prior to this date only those patients with co-existing cardiac or respiratory diseases at increased risk of influenza were vaccinated routinely. In order to determine whether such patients had been immunized, we approached all patients admitted to Care of the Elderly wards during an 8-week period in January and February. The study additionally identified factors that may have influenced patients’ participation in this immunization programme. Six hundred and forty-nine patients on Care of the Elderly wards with acute medical illness were questioned with regard to vaccination against influenza during the previous year. Of the 649 patients 279 were suitable for entry into the study. Of these 39% had been vaccinated against influenza. When considering the 171 who were not vaccinated, 25% (44 patients) had actually been offered and declined vaccination, in 46% of these cases due to previous side-effects, or fear of anticipated side-effects. In those unvaccinated three-quarters considered that the influenza vaccine was not efficacious. Unfortunately, patients with co-existing cardiac, respiratory or endocrine diseases were no more likely to have been vaccinated than were those without these diseases. Many older patients admitted with acute medical problems had not been vaccinated against influenza and the reasons for this included not being offered vaccination, a belief that influenza vaccination was not efficacious and concerns about possible side-effects. The role of community doctors and nurses in facilitating the vaccination of such an at-risk group is evident and should be incorporated into resource planning.