Concerns about side effects and efficacy remain the two most frequent reasons for nurses refusing the flu vaccine, according to researchers.
As a result of their findings, the study authors said future flu vaccination campaigns aimed at nurses and other healthcare workers should be reviewed to address common misconceptions and misgivings.
The study was a joint partnership between the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London and the Second Military Medical University of Shanghai in China.
They surveyed 522 qualified nurses attending continuing professional development courses in London between 18 April and 18 October 2010.
Participants were asked a series of questions about their level of knowledge about flu and the vaccine. They were also asked for their vaccination history and for their reasons for accepting or refusing the vaccine.
Of those surveyed, 37% reported receiving seasonal influenza vaccination in the previous season and 45% reported never being vaccinated during the last five years.
When asked why they had not had the vaccine, the majority of unvaccinated respondents highlighted concerns about vaccine side effects, 63%, or a belief that there was no need to have it, 56%.
A further 36% cited concerns about the effectiveness or safety of the vaccine, 16% cited organisational reasons, such as having no time or it was difficult to access vaccination, while 9% said they disliked, or had a fear, of injections.
The survey results compare with official Department of Health figures for uptake during the 2010-11 flu season, published in September, which showed 34.7% of frontline NHS staff received the vaccination in England – but just 30% of nurses.
Provisional figures for the present flu season suggest an improvement this year. At the end of November around 29% of frontline staff had been vaccinated, compared to 11% by the same point in 2010. This is the first flu season that NHS Employers has run a campaign specifically targeting uptake among health workers.
Study author Ian Norman, associate dean for staff development at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, said: “Since concerns about the vaccine’s side effects and effectiveness were the two most common reasons given for refusing the vaccine, future campaigns must focus on targeting information to dispel these widespread myths.”
Fellow author Alison While, professor of community nursing and associate dean of education at the school, added: “There is a clear group of ‘persistent decliners’ who are in the ‘habit’ of not having the vaccination. Campaigns will therefore need to be persistent, durative and intensive.”