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Seasonal influenza vaccination in health-care workers: the influence of consultants on the uptake of vaccination by medical students and early career doctors

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>The Lancet
Issue numberSuppl. 2
Number of pages1
Pages (from-to)S46
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date25/11/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English



The Chief Medical Officer for England recommends that all health-care workers receive an influenza vaccination annually. Medical students are also encouraged to get vaccinated. High vaccination coverage is believed to be the best form of protection against the spread of influenza within hospital settings, protecting both staff and patients, and reducing virus transmission. However, uptake of seasonal influenza vaccination by health-care workers remains substantially lower than the target level of 75%. Our study aimed to provide a deeper insight into the influenza vaccination practices of health-care workers.


An opportunistic sampling strategy was used and participants recruited via compulsory teaching sessions. We conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with seven medical students and nine foundation doctors, to explore the factors informing their vaccination decisions. Interviews were transcribed and the data analysed thematically. Data collection and analysis took place as an iterative process, until theoretical saturation was achieved.


Of the 16 participants, ten had been vaccinated during the 2015–16 season. A number of key themes emerged, and there were inconsistencies between an individual's opinion of the vaccine, their intentions, and their vaccination status. For example, someone reporting negative opinions of the vaccine could have been vaccinated. Moreover, individuals did not necessarily vaccinate year on year. Participants were influenced by senior staff as role models, demonstrating both positive and negative attitudes towards the vaccine. Participants often presented this observation in the context of their own conflicting ideals of medical professionalism. The decision making processes around influenza vaccination seem to be finely balanced, take place within a culture of relative ambivalence, and can easily be tipped one way or the other by factors such as convenience.


The findings are drawn from a diverse sample, and are supported by the literature. This study suggests that senior staff have an important role in the vaccination practices of juniors. The influential role of consultants could be used as part of a future strategy to increase vaccination, since positive role models can facilitate a cultural shift in favour of vaccination uptake. Future research involving senior staff is necessary to understand the complexities behind their own vaccination practices.