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According to a recent study, nearly 60 percent of healthcare workers do not get a flu shot. According to the study, one of the most common excuses why is that the worker is afraid the shot itself will make him or her ill. This faulty logic is especially surprising because healthcare professionals should know that the flu shot is not a live virus and cannot make anyone sick, says Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the Department of Preventative Medicine at Vanderbilt University.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that all healthcare workers, from volunteers to doctors, get vaccinated. Dr. Schaffner takes it a step further arguing, "It is a professional obligation on the part of health care workers to make sure that they are as protected against influenza as possible." Citing the ease as which the virus can be spread, Dr. Schaffner says vaccination should be as standard and common as washing one’s hands.

While Schaffner admits it is hard to link flu outbreaks in patients to healthcare professionals (because of the variety of ways in which a patient could possibly become infected) he notes, "Being in close proximity to patients, having conversations with them, bending over their bed, seeing them in the clinic while you’re doing procedures, you would be breathing out viruses and spreading influenza into your patients."

It is no stretch to link unvaccinated healthcare workers to patients who eventually contract the virus. So, the next time you are in a healthcare setting, you may want to inquire as to the hospital or clinic’s policy on vaccination. If it is simply an option (and not a requirement), you may want to ask your provider if he or she has been vaccinated. And, of course, Dr. Schaffner says the best way to be protected is to get vaccinated yourself!

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