Flu Vaccine: How Did We Do?

Flu Vaccine Field TripLast year I informally surveyed my co-workers here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia to find out how many, in this organization whose mission is in part to “advance the cause of health,” had taken the influenza vaccine that season. Out of the 30 people I polled, 43% had. Though this was about on par with national flu vaccine uptake, I was still disappointed with the low number. And so this year, with my supervisor’s encouragement, I decided to do something.

In October I spoke briefly at an all-staff meeting to talk about benefits, risks, and myths of influenza vaccination. More than that, though, I promised a $10 Trader Joe’s gift card to everyone who’d get vaccinated and show me the proof.

So, how did we do? According to an online survey I just conducted of staff members, 24 of 30 people, or 80%, said they had gotten the vaccine. Six said they didn’t, and one said s/he hadn’t yet but planned to. So, 80% is great  – but I wonder about the 10 or so people who didn’t respond. If we assume that half of them got the vaccine, then we are down to about 72%. If all of them refused, then our uptake is 60%. Interestingly, 20 people responded that they had gotten the vaccine last year, which would make last year’s uptake 66% — far different from what I had found when I asked people in person. Still, by most of those counts, we did better this year than last year.

Of the reasons for getting the vaccine, the one given most often was “to avoid getting influenza.” Eleven people wanted to “avoid passing influenza to other people.” In five cases, doctors specifically recommended it, and in five other cases the Trader Joe’s gift card was an important motivator (it should be noted that Trader Joe’s is about a half block from us, and some of us are known to visit it more than once a day). Unfortunately, three people felt pressured to get the vaccine: to them, please accept my apologies if I was the one exerting undue pressure!

Among the responses about why people didn’t get the vaccine, the most common one was “I don’t think it’s necessary.” Two people said they got sick before they could get the vaccine. One person reported that s/he worried about side effects from the vaccine.

About 80% of respondents said they planned to get the vaccine next year.

I’d like to think that my little campaign helped increase our uptake this year. But I have to say that I think the main reason uptake increased was that in mid-November, one of our coworkers got sick and tested positive for influenza A. Having flu in the building sent a lot of people to the pharmacy to get the vaccine (included the group pictured here). And quite a few people spent $10 on chocolate and fancy yogurt at Trader Joe’s that day.