(09.10.2014) The World Medical Association is stepping up its commitment to reduce the burden of influenza with a social media campaign among physicians to raise their awareness of the importance of immunization. Physicians around the world will be encouraged to roll up their sleeves and get immunized against seasonal flu to protect themselves and their vulnerable patients.
The second phase of the WMA’s campaign, supported by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, was launched today at the WMA’s annual General Assembly in Durban, South Africa. Dr. Mukesh Haikerwal, Chair of the WMA, told more than 200 physician leaders attending the meeting that they should become role models by incorporating better immunization practices into their clinical routine.
He said: ‘Between five and ten per cent of adults and up to 30 per cent of children worldwide will contract seasonal influenza annually and there are about five million severe cases and 500,000 deaths each year. Annual vaccinations are critical for high-risk groups, such as the very young, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with underlying non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
‘Health professionals are committed to caring for and protecting their patients and have many ethical obligations in their professional work. The WMA campaign emphasizes these obligations towards patients and challenges physicians to act as role models. Getting an annual vaccine shot can reduce influenza infections in healthcare staff by almost ninety per cent and could reduce mortality among patients by fifty per cent. Health professionals can unknowingly infect their patients’
The campaign seeks to harness the power of digital communication and social media to get the message across to physicians all over the world. Based on findings that health professionals are the most trusted source of information on health issues, their role in promoting increased vaccination coverage is critical, particularly for high risk groups and people living with NCDs. In the USA, the personal recommendation by a healthcare professional, particularly a family doctor or nurse, has been shown to be the single greatest factor most likely to encourage vaccination. Through the campaign, the WMA is encouraging physicians to make a small thing (getting the flu vaccine) a big deal by protecting themselves and those they care for, and by asking others to follow their lead.
It is more than 10 years since the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution on the importance of influenza vaccination, yet few member states have translated these recommendations into action. Despite all the national and global public awareness and policy efforts, influenza vaccination coverage, particularly in high risk populations, is globally low. The WMA campaign hopes to help change that.