PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Flu vaccination rates among healthcare personnel remain low after rates dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

According to the state health agency, 64% of eligible healthcare workers in Oregon received a flu vaccine during the 2022-2023 flu season. OHA says the data accounts for healthcare workers in all facility types.

During the 2022-2023 flu season, OHA reports there are 136,573 healthcare workers across the state — including those who have received a flu vaccine and those who have not. In order to meet federal goals in the Healthy People 2020 initiative, 35,573 workers need to get vaccinated to have a 90% vaccinated workforce, OHA data shows.

During the last flu season, Oregon saw similar flu vaccination rates. According to OHA, in the 2021-2022 flu season, 63% of healthcare workers received a flu vaccine — noting the rates are concerning as the state works to prevent the virus’ spread to people at risk of severe illness and death.

From the 2019-2020 season to the 2022-2023 season, the rate of flu vaccinations among eligible healthcare workers dropped by 25%, officials said.

“Healthcare workers are the first line of defense in protecting vulnerable patients and preventing a severe respiratory virus season from becoming a catastrophic one,” said Dr. Rebecca Pierce, Healthcare-Associated Infections program manager. “That’s why influenza vaccination of health care workers is a key strategy for infection control in health care facilities.”

OHA says it requires annual reporting of health care worker flu vaccine data from ambulatory surgery centers, hospitals and nursing facilities.

The 2022-2023 dashboard shows hospitals reported the highest vaccination rates among workers at 69%, followed by ambulatory surgery centers reporting 67%, nursing facilities reporting 41% and inpatient psychiatric facilities and dialysis facilities reporting the lowest rate at 35%.

OHA notes that flu vaccination rates for dialysis centers and hospitals saw an uptick from the 2021-2022 season, but they were still below rates from previous flu seasons.

“Influenza vaccinations among healthcare workers were significantly impacted during the pandemic, which is likely reflective of historically low rates of influenza during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 flu seasons,” Pierce said. “However, flu transmission has returned to pre-pandemic levels. It’s important that we focus on rebuilding flu vaccination rates for this critical, front-line workforce.”

The state health agency adds that the number of eligible healthcare workers who declined a flu vaccine has increased over the years. OHA says flu vaccine rates dropped 15% in 2022-2023, compared to 11% in the 2021-2022 season.

Additionally, 21% of healthcare workers reported having an unknown vaccination status, which OHA says may contribute to the low vaccine rates.,

Pierce says health care facilities can take more steps to reach the 90% flu vaccination goal, including encouraging health care workers, contractors, and volunteers to get vaccinated at the start of every flu season, holding vaccination fairs, giving employees free vaccines, and documenting employee vaccination status.