To assess the response of long-term care facilities (LTCFs) to the 2004-2005 influenza vaccine shortage and the impact on resident and healthcare worker (HCW) immunization rates.
A 12-item questionnaire was sent to 824 randomly selected LTCFs in December 2004. The following 2 open-ended questions were also asked: “How did you cope with the vaccine shortage?” and “Who helped you get your supply?” Immunization rates reported by LTCF administrators for 2003-2003 and 2003-2004 were compared with those for 2004-2005. Immunization rates were defined as the proportion of all eligible residents and HCWs who received influenza vaccine.
Responses were received from 380 LTCFs (46.3%), which had a total of 38,447 beds. Resident mean influenza immunization rates (±SD) decreased from 85% ± 15.3% in 2002-2003 and 85.1% ± 15.3% in 2003-2004 to 81.9% ± 19.4% in the 2004-2005 influenza season (P = .025). The immunization rates among HCWs also decreased from 51% in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 to 38.4% in 2004-2005 (P<.001). In response to one of the open-ended questions, 96 facilities (25.3%) reported that they obtained vaccine from 2 or more sources. Eight percent commented on specific intensified infection control efforts, and only 2.3% commented on emergency preparedness.
The influenza vaccine shortage in 2004-2005 impacted immunization practices of LTCFs across the United States, leading to decreases in both resident and HCW vaccination rates. The significant decrease in vaccination rates in LTCFs is of concern and has broad implications for policy makers working on emergency preparedness for a possible pandemic of influenza.