In a study of 1,651 U.S. healthcare workers, only 38 percent were vaccinated against the flu.
Influenza is the sixth leading cause of death in the nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccinating healthcare workers with direct patient contact as a priority to prevent spread of the disease.
Vaccination rates were particularly low in workers who were health aides, African American or under 50.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles and Harvard University, will be detailed in the February edition of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. It was based on data from a survey done in 2000.
The low vaccination rates increase the odds that health care workers will get the flu and transmit it to their patients, the researchers said. They recommend education campaigns to raise vaccination rates among the groups least likely to be getting the shots.
The report was funded by the National Institutes of Health.