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Not All St. Louis-Area EMTs Are Getting Vaccinated Against the Flu

(National Institutes of Health)

As many as a quarter of EMTs and other emergency medical personnel in the St. Louis area may not be getting annual flu vaccinations, according toa new study out of Saint Louis University.

Saint Louis University nurse researcher and study lead Terri Rebmann says many study participants had misconceptions about the flu vaccine.

“Almost 40 percent of the EMTs indicated that they do not trust public health authorities when they say that the vaccine is safe,” Rebmann said.

That’s of the EMTs who actually got vaccinated. Of those who didn’t, more than 60 percent said they didn’t trust that the flu vaccine is safe, and almost a third thought it had serious side effects.

Rebmann says that’s just not true. And she says, other than doctors, most health care workers get little or no training about vaccine safety and efficacy.

Of the EMTs in the study who didn’t get vaccinated, Rebmann says fewer than half realized they could be putting their patients at risk.

“Healthcare workers can play a role in disease transmission,” Rebmann said. “Research has indicated that if health care workers are vaccinated it decreases the rates of influenza in their patients, even if the patients themselves have not been vaccinated.”

Rebmann says the flu can be a serious disease, particularly for the elderly and the very young.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all heath care workers get annual flu vaccinations.

Of the 256 EMTs who participated in the study, only seven were required to get annual flu vaccinations by their employer.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience