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Physicians embrace role as ‘immunization champions’

October 17, 2014

AHS aims to boost clinician influenza vaccination rates

Story and photo by Colin Zak

It’s a yearly tradition.

Flu season is around the corner and, as physicians and other clinicians roll up their sleeve to get their flu shot, physicians across the province are becoming immunization champions.

Last year, 54 per cent of AHS staff got their influenza vaccination and, this year, Calgary physicians are hoping to raise that number to 80 per cent.

“Flu kills Albertans every year. We can help ourselves and help our patients if we get the influenza vaccination and prevent ourselves from getting sick or transmitting it to others,” says Dr. Chip Doig, Department Head of Critical Care Medicine for the AHS Calgary Zone.

Dr. Chip Doig, Department Head of Critical Care Medicine for the AHS Calgary Zone, puts on a brave face as he receives his influenza immunization at a recent staff immunization clinic. Last year, 54 per cent of AHS clinicians got their influenza vaccination. This year, AHS is hoping to raise that number to 80 per cent.“Vaccinations have been one of the most important advances in public health and they have helped us eliminate a number of childhood diseases. We advocate for our patients and need to take the time to look after ourselves as well.”

Vaccination clinics for AHS physicians and staff opened Oct. 6 and public clinics across the province open Oct. 20. And with the imminent arrival of influenza in the province, many physicians are becoming immunization champions, sharing a simple message with their co-workers: get the vaccination early in the season, before influenza arrives.

“Along with hand hygiene, influenza immunization is a proven way to help prevent the spread of viruses. It’s simple and safe to do, and as clinicians, we should all be doing it,” says Dr. Stephen Tsekrekos, Medical Director for Workplace Health & Safety, AHS. “As physicians, we are health care leaders. It’s important for us to make it a priority for ourselves as a profession, our patients and other health care workers.”

Although there is always room for improvement when it comes to influenza immunization rates, Dr. Tsekrekos notes immunization rates among AHS staff have, in fact, been increasing in recent years – from 37 per cent in 2012/13 to 54 per cent in 2013/14.

With more than 300 peer immunizers or workplace champions in the Calgary Zone alone – up from 132 last year – AHS clinicians have more opportunities to be immunized by co-workers on the job.

“Having physician and clinician champions has helped make influenza immunization more accessible for AHS staff and physicians,” Dr. Tsekrekos says. “It’s right there, at our workplace. We can all emphasize this to our co-workers.”

Last year, many Albertans waited until late in the season to get immunized. But according to Dr. Jim Kellner, Department Head of Pediatrics in the AHS Calgary Zone, influenza season is well on its way.

“Based on what we’ve already seen in the southern hemisphere, we are expecting a big influenza season this year,” Kellner says.

“However, we are seeing many clinicians coming out to encourage their co-workers to get immunized and prevent the spread to patients. This year promises to be a success.”