There are no accurate data on rates of laboratory-proven influenza in healthcare workers.
The studies found that vaccinating healthcare workers who look after the elderly in long-term care facilities did not show any effect on the specific outcomes of interest, namely laboratory-proven influenza, pneumonia or deaths from pneumonia. An effect was shown for outcomes with a non-specific relationship to influenza, namely influenza-like illness (which includes many other viruses and bacteria than influenza), GP consultations for influenza-like illness, hospital admissions and the overall mortality of the elderly (winter influenza is responsible for less than 10% of the deaths of individuals over 60 and overall mortality thus reflects many other causes).
Healthcare workers have lower rates of influenza vaccination than the elderly and surveys show that healthcare workers who do not get vaccinated do not perceive themselves at risk, doubt the efficacy of influenza vaccine, have concerns about side effects, and some do not perceive their patients to be at risk. This review did not find information on other interventions that can be used in conjunction with vaccinating healthcare workers, for example hand washing, face masks, early detection of laboratory-proven influenza in individuals with influenza-like illness by using nasal swabs, quarantine of floors and entire long-term care facilities during outbreaks, avoiding new admissions, prompt use of anti-virals, and asking healthcare workers with an influenza-like illness not to present for work.
We conclude that there is no evidence that only vaccinating healthcare workers prevents laboratory-proven influenza, pneumonia, and death from pneumonia in elderly residents in long-term care facilities. Other interventions such as hand washing, masks, early detection of influenza with nasal swabs, anti-virals, quarantine, restricting visitors and asking healthcare workers with an influenza-like illness not to attend work might protect individuals over 60 in long-term care facilities and high quality randomised controlled trials testing combinations of these interventions are needed.