Background Vaccination of health-care workers has been claimed to prevent nosocomial influenza infection of elderly patients in long-term care. Data are, however, limited on this strategy. We aimed to find out whether vaccination of healthcare workers lowers mortality and the frequency of virologically proven influenza in such patients.
Methods In a parallel-group study, healthcare workers in 20 long-term elderly-care hospitals (range 44-105 patients) were randomly offered or not offered influenza vaccine (cluster randomisation, stratified for policy for vaccination of patients and hospital size). All deaths among patients were recorded over 6 months In the winter of 1996-97. We selected a random sample of 50% of patients for virological surveillance for influenza, with combined nasal and throat swabs taken every 2 weeks during the epidemic period, Swabs were tested by tissue culture and PCR for influenza viruses A and B.
Findings Influenza vaccine uptake in healthcare workers was 50.9% in hospitals in which they were routinely offered vaccine, compared with 4.9% in those in which they were not. The uncorrected rate of mortality in patients was 102 (13.6%) of 749 in vaccine hospitals compared with 154 (22.4%) of 688 in no-vaccine hospitals (odds ratio 0.58 [95% CI 0.40-0.84], p=0.014). The two groups did not differ for proportions of patients positive for influenza infection (5.4% and 6.7%, respectively); at necropsy, PCR was positive in none of 17 patients from vaccine hospitals and six (20%) of 30 from no-vaccine hospitals (p=0.055).
Interpretation Vaccination of healthcare workers was associated with a substantial decrease in mortality among patients. However, virological surveillance showed no associated decrease in non-fatal influenza infection in patients.
|Number of pages||5|
|Publication status||Published - 8 Jan 2000|