Construction workers are much less likely to get vaccinated for the flu than people in management, healthcare and social assistance. That finding emerged from a study published recently in the American Journal of Infection Control. The purpose of the study was to compare flu vaccination coverage rates by industry, occupation and state.

Each year, flu-like illnesses cause sickness, missed workdays, and related costs in the U.S. workforce. Getting the annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the illness, according to the CDC, yet coverage still lags among some workers.

Investigators from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases looked at vaccination coverage information for 21 states in the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System – date used by the public health community to target efforts aimed at preventing illness and injury.

What they found: vaccination coverage varies significantly by industry, occupation, and state.

  • The lowest rates were among workers employed in the construction industry, at less than 19%
  • The highest rates were among workers employed in management of companies and enterprises and healthcare and social assistance, at approximately 53%.

By occupation:

  • workers in the farming, fishing, and forestry industries had the lowest vaccination coverage at almost 14%.
  • In contrast, healthcare and technical workers had the highest coverage at 62%.

In other findings, some occupations with frequent public contact had relatively low vaccination coverage of less than 30%. In previous studies, workers in these occupations, which include food preparation and service, sales, personal care, and other service-related jobs, have had relatively high rates of flu-like illnesses, underscoring the need for increasing flu vaccination coverage.

By state:

  • the lowest vaccination coverage among high-priority workers was in Florida at slightly more than 43%.
  • The highest rate was nearly 69% in Minnesota.
  • Overall, the average flu vaccination coverage in the 21 states represented was 57%.

The study’s authors say their highlight some of the industries, occupations, and geographic areas in need of improved flu vaccination coverage. Further research to pinpoint specific industries and occupations to target vaccine interventions could help limit the spread of illness during future flu pandemics.

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