Sixty percent of EMTs who did not get vaccinated said they do not trust the public health authorities when they say the influenza vaccine is safe, and about a third said that flu vaccine has a lot of side effects and reported being afraid of them. More than half in this unvaccinated group also said they do not believe they can play a role in transmitting influenza to their patients if they are not vaccinated.
"It's a concern that so many EMTs who are educated in healthcare do not believe that the public health message regarding influenza vaccine safety and efficacy is reliable," study co-investigator Kate Wright, an associate professor and director of Heartland Centers at Saint Louis University, said in a statement.
In addition, 25 percent of the 265 St. Louis EMTs said they do not believe that influenza is a serious disease that can cause death.
Influenza causes millions of cases of illness each year, and results in thousands of hospitalizations and deaths -- especially among the elderly -- a group having a lot of contact with EMTs, said study co-investigator Terri Rebmann.
"Non-vaccinated healthcare personnel have been linked to influenza spread among their patients," Rebmann said. "The seasonal influenza vaccine is safe and effective, with very few side effects - which are very mild in most individuals. Annual vaccination is critical for all healthcare personnel to prevent influenza spread in the community."
The findings are published in the American Journal of Infection Control.