The doctors vaccinate too little. Unfortunately


The last case reported by the chronicles is that of a radiologist at the Mayer pediatric hospital in Florence, sick of measles, probably contracted by a patient and hospitalized at the end of March. It is not an exception: in Piedmont, Lombardy and Lazio a case of measles every ten has involved health workers or subjects working in a hospital environment. In Tuscany in the first two months of 2017, at least half of the cases occurred among health workers.

Why do health professionals suffer from measles? Why not get vaccinated: it turns out thanks to a recent online survey whose results were made public during the national conference medice cura te ipsum (lat. "Doctor, care yourself"), which was held in Pisa on 27 and 28 March 2017. Why don't they get vaccinated? Because almost every third health professional is skeptical about the efficacy of vaccines and expresses the fear that they could cause serious adverse effects.

Trivalent for the brain. Conducted on 2, 250 health workers (mainly nurses but for over a quarter of doctors), the survey revealed that 44% of interviewed health care providers believe they have a low risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable disease.

Incorrect conviction!

About 10% of the cases notified in Piedmont, Lombardy and Lazio concern healthcare workers. In Tuscany it even comes to one in three cases, and in the provinces of Pisa and Florence the measles virus found a particularly favorable environment in the hospital: as many as 50% of cases concern health workers (doctors, nurses, midwives). In the Tuscan capital, 6 children suffering from measles are the children of professionals who have contracted the infection in the hospital.

Paradoxically, the organizers of the conference note, the health professionals, who should be the most prepared and aware of their responsibility towards patients, have vaccination rates that are sometimes lower than those of the general population.

Yet the vaccination of health workers has three values:

  • reduces the risk of transmitting the infection to patients;
  • guarantees the functioning of the hospital and of the health service - because the vaccinated staff becomes less ill - and
  • testifies to citizens that vaccinations are useful and safe.
  • Also read: 11 things you (perhaps) don't know about vaccines

    Viruses don't look anyone in the face. The unvaccinated health worker, more exposed than other categories to contract the infection from patients, becomes a (weak) link in the chain and in turn a source of contagion for the patient population, already weakened by the diseases that have imposed hospitalization .

    They do not vaccinate against measles, but neither against hepatitis B, an infection to which they are particularly exposed because they handle potentially infected biological liquids, needles and materials. Nor against seasonal flu (only 1 out of 5 doctors vaccinates), with the risk of reduced ranks precisely at the time of maximum need of the population.

    Despite the profession of these subjects, what is perhaps not clear to them is that there are no pediatric viruses: in general, microbes have no regard for someone's age, to infect it.

    The result? Take the case of Piedmont: as many as 30 cases of measles were infected in a hospital environment. Of these, 23 are health workers, but 7 are patients who were admitted to the hospital for other diseases at the time of the infection and another 8 infected declared that they had gone to a health facility before the onset of symptoms.

    Moreover, there is nothing surprising: the measles virus is particularly "sticky". Its infectivity rate, which virologists express in R0 (a value that indicates how contagious a virus is) is very high. According to the CDC of Atlanta, measles has an R0 of 18: in words rather than numbers, it means that every case of measles is transmitted on average to 18 other people . To compare, the HIV virus, responsible for AIDS, has a R0 of 2: each individual case of HIV infection transmits the disease to an average of two people.

    Still on measles, it should also be noted that after having contracted the infection 10-12 days pass before the symptoms arise: in that time the carrier can infect anyone he encounters. There is no need even for it to come close: just be in the same room.