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Meningococcal, influenza virus, and hepatitis B virus vaccination coverage level among health care workers in Hajj
© Madani and Ghabrah; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2007
Received: 03 January 2007
Accepted: 18 July 2007
Published: 18 July 2007
The objective of this study was to assess the compliance of health care workers (HCWs) employed in Hajj in receiving the meningococcal, influenza, and hepatitis B vaccines.
A cross-sectional survey of doctors and nurses working in all Mena and Arafat hospitals and primary health care centers who attended Hajj-medicine training programs immediately before the beginning of Hajj of the lunar Islamic year 1423 (2003) using self-administered structured questionnaire which included demographic data and data on vaccination history.
A total of 392 HCWs were studied including 215 (54.8%) nurses and 177 (45.2%) doctors. One hundred and sixty four (41.8%) HCWs were from Makkah and the rest were recruited from other regions in Saudi Arabia. Three hundred and twenty three (82.4%) HCWs received the quadrivalent (ACYW135) meningococcal meningitis vaccine with 271 (83.9%) HCWs receiving it at least 2 weeks before coming to Hajj, whereas the remaining 52 (16.1%) HCWs received it within < 2 weeks. Only 23 (5.9%) HCWs received the current year's influenza virus vaccine. Two hundred and sixty (66.3%) of HCWs received the three-dose hepatitis B vaccine series, 19.3% received one or two doses, and 14.3% did not receive any dose. There was no statistically significant difference in compliance with the three vaccines between doctors and nurses.
The meningococcal and hepatitis B vaccination coverage level among HCWs in Hajj was suboptimal and the influenza vaccination level was notably low. Strategies to improve vaccination coverage among HCWs should be adopted by all health care facilities in Saudi Arabia.
Ensuring that health care workers (HCWs) are immune to vaccine-preventable diseases is an essential part of successful employee health programs. Optimal use of vaccines can prevent transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases and eliminate unnecessary work restriction. Prevention of illness through comprehensive HCWs immunization programs is far more cost-effective than case management and outbreak control . In Saudi Arabia, the national vaccination recommendations for HCWs are generally the same as those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Meningococcal vaccination of all HCWs is additionally recommended in Saudi Arabia, particularly for those working directly with pilgrims in Hajj. Influenza and hepatitis B vaccines are also emphasized for this group of HCWs. These three and other required vaccines are made available free of charge for all HCWs in all health care facilities in Saudi Arabia. The objective of this study was to assess the compliance of HCWs employed in Hajj in receiving the meningococcal, influenza, and hepatitis B vaccines that are particularly recommended for Hajj by the Ministry of Health.
Hajj is the fifth of the five pillars of Islam. Any healthy Muslim adult is required to perform Hajj once in his/her life if he/she is financially and physically capable. The Hajj begins on the 8th day of Dhul-Hijjah, the 12th month of the lunar Islamic year, and ends on the 13th day of the same month. Hajj has to be performed in three main locations in Makkah, namely, the sacred Kaaba (in the holy city of Makkah), and Mena and Arafat, which are approximately 5 and 18 Kilometers far from Makkah, respectively. Approximately, 2–3 million pilgrims perform Hajj every year; one third of whom come from within Saudi Arabia and two thirds come from other countries. Most pilgrims stay in fire-resistant air-conditioned camping tents in Mena during the entire Hajj period. Financially deprived pilgrims who cannot afford to pay for the cost of staying in camps usually stay outdoor. Free medical care services are provided to pilgrims by the Saudi Ministry of Health.
Study design and population
A cross-sectional survey was conducted in Mena and Arafat during the Hajj season of the Islamic year 1423 corresponding to 2003 Gregorian. HCWs included in the study were all doctors and nurses working in Mena and Arafat hospitals and primary health care centers who attended Hajj-medicine training programs immediately before the beginning of Hajj. Many of the HCWs were recruited from various regions in Saudi Arabia to supplement the local HCWs working in Makkah to cover the extensive medical services provided to pilgrims in Hajj.
The Saudi Ministry of Health approved the study. Data were collected using a structured questionnaire which included demographic data and data on vaccination history. The questionnaire was anonymously self-administered by HCWs with supervision from the research team members.
Data entry and statistical analysis were performed using computer and the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) program. Descriptive statistics, cross tabulations, and Chi-square test were performed as appropriate. Multiple logistic regression analysis was performed to identify predictors of compliance to vaccination after controlling for possible confounding factors. Statistical significance was set at < 0.05.
A total of 392 HCWs attended the Hajj-medicine training programs. All HCWs agreed to participate in the study with 100% response rate. Two hundred and fifteen (54.8%) HCWs were nurses and 177 (45.2%) HCWs were doctors. Three hundred and fifteen (80.4%) HCWs worked in hospitals, whereas 77 (19.6%) HCWs worked in primary health care centers during this Hajj season. Of the 392 HCWs, 164 (41.8%) HCWs were from Makkah, 85 (21.8%), from Riyadh, 53 (13.6%), from the Eastern Region, 28 (7.3%), from Asir, 21 (5.3%), from Al-Qassim, 13 (3.4%), from Najran, 8 (1.9%), each from Al-Baha and Jizan, and 4 (1.0%), each from Al-Jouf, Hail, and Northern Region.
Socio-demographic characteristics of 177 doctors and 215 nurses included in the study
Age group (year)
Years of experience
21 or more
21 or more
Original work place
Only 23 (5.9%) HCWs received the current year's influenza virus vaccine. There was no statistically significant difference in compliance with this vaccine between doctors and nurses (5.6 % versus 7.4 %, respectively, p = 0.573).
Compliance of 392 health care workers (177 doctors and 215 nurses) with the hepatitis B virus vaccination
Number of doses
% of doctors
% of nurses
3 or more doses
Bivariate analysis of the compliance of 392 health care workers (HCWs) for receiving the ACYW135 meningococcal meningitis, influenza, and at least one dose of the hepatitis B vaccines according to their gender, age group, nationality, years of experience, degree, position, and original place of work.
Number of HCWs
HCWs who received the meningococcal vaccine (%)
HCWs who received the influenza vaccine (%)
HCWs who received at least one dose of the hepatitis B vaccine (%)
Total number of HCWs
Age group (year)
Experience in year
21 or more
Original work place
Until year 2000, bivalent (AC) meningococcal vaccination was recommended for all people coming to the Hajj areas from inside or outside Saudi Arabia. Since 2000, Neisseria meningitides W135 caused outbreaks among pilgrims for the first time in history . As a result, since year 2000, the quadrivalent (ACWY135) meningococcal vaccination has been recommended by the Ministry of Health for all people coming for Hajj with revaccination every 3 years if the unconjugated polysaccharide vaccine was used. The quadrivalent meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine has been made available free of charge in all health care facilities for all HCWs as well as for other people within Saudi Arabia intending to perform Hajj. This study showed that compliance of HCWs with this vaccine was suboptimal (82.4%) with almost one fifth of HCWs being unvaccinated. Non-Saudi HCWs were significantly more compliant with this vaccine than Saudi HCWs. Further studies are needed to determine the reasons for the lower compliance among the Saudi HCWs. Possible explanations for this difference include better awareness of the importance of this vaccine among the non-Saudis and false sense of security and perceived low likelihood of contracting meningococcal meningitis among Saudi HCWs. Gender, age, years of experience, qualification degree, position, and original place of work were not significant predictors of compliance to the meningococcal vaccine.
During community influenza outbreaks, admitting patients infected with influenza to hospitals has led to nosocomial transmission of the disease, including transmission from staff to patients [4–6]. Transmission of influenza among medical staff causes absenteeism and considerable disruption of health care [7–10]. The Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in the United States recommend that all HCWs be vaccinated annually against influenza . However, in spite of a long-standing recommendation for influenza vaccination of HCWs, and the availability of a safe and effective vaccine, influenza vaccination coverage levels among HCWs remain substantially low worldwide . For instance, during 1989–2003, HCWs influenza vaccination coverage levels in the United States increased from 10% to 40%; however, coverage levels have remained relatively constant since 1997 . Substantially lower vaccination rates have been reported among HCWs who have contact with certain populations at high risk in the United States [13–16]. Low influenza vaccination coverage rates have also been reported from Europe [17–20]. This vaccine is particularly recommended for HCWs working in Hajj because of the very high risk of acquiring influenza infection in such overcrowded situations. However, in this study, only 5.9% of HCWs received the current year's influenza virus vaccine. Gender, age, nationality, years of experience, qualification degree, position, and original place of work were not significant predictors of compliance to this vaccine. Reported barriers to HCWs receipt or acceptance of influenza vaccination include fear of vaccine side effects, insufficient time or inconvenience, perceived ineffectiveness of the vaccine, medical contraindication, perceived low likelihood of contracting influenza, reliance on treatment with homeopathic medications, avoidance of medications, and fear of needles .
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a major infectious hazard for HCWs [11, 12]. In general, the seroprevalence of HBV among HCWs is twofold to fourfold higher than that of blood donor controls . The risk for acquiring HBV infection from occupational exposures is dependent on the frequency of percutaneous and permucosal exposures to blood or body fluids containing blood . The risk for transmission from a single needlestick varies according to hepatitis B e antigen status: 1% to 6% for e antigen-negative blood compared with 22% to 40% with e antigen-positive blood . Not all cases of HBV transmission are explained by needlesticks, suggesting that other modes of spread may be possible . HBV vaccination of all HCWs has been strongly recommended . The HBV three-dose vaccine series is 88% effective [24, 25]. From 1985 to 1994, the use of HBV vaccine and adherence to other preventive measures such as standard precautions lead to a 90% decline of HBV infection among HCWs in the United States [26, 27]. Even though, HBV vaccination of all HCWs has been strongly recommended, the vaccination coverage level of HCWs remains suboptimal with many studies reporting rates between 40–86% [28–35]. A recent study from Saudi Arabia reported an overall compliance rate of 71.6% (932/1302) among HCWs . In that study the compliance rate was 79.5% (492/619) among nurses, 78.3% (242/309) among technicians, and 52.9% (198/374) among physicians . In the current study, the compliance rate was similar to earlier reports as only 66.3% of HCWs received the three-dose vaccine series, 19.3% received one or two doses, and 14.3% did not receive any dose. Gender, age, nationality, years of experience, qualification degree, position, and original place of work were not significant predictors of compliance to this vaccine.
Several strategies for improving HCWs vaccination coverage have been recommended . Successful HCWs vaccination programs are multifaceted and combine publicity and education to combat fears and misconceptions about vaccines, use of reminder recall systems, efforts to remove administrative and financial barriers, role modeling, and monitoring and feedback on vaccination coverage . Educational programs should emphasize the benefits of HCWs vaccination for staff and patients . Organized campaigns that promote and make vaccine accessible can improve vaccination rates among HCWs . Vaccination of senior medical staff or opinion leaders has been associated with higher vaccination acceptance among staff members under their leadership . Removing administrative barriers such as costs and providing vaccine in locations and at times easily accessible by HCWs can substantially improve vaccine acceptance. Making vaccine readily accessible at congregate areas (e.g., clinics), during conferences, or by use of mobile carts has been demonstrated to improve vaccination coverage rates . Monitoring vaccination coverage by facility area (e.g., ward or unit) or occupational group allows facilities to identify where vaccination levels are low and interventions that should be targeted. Obtaining declination statements from HCWs who refuse vaccination for reasons other than medical contraindications can assist facilities in identifying personnel who might require targeted education or other interventions to overcome barriers to vaccine acceptance. In addition, collection of such information will allow health-care facilities to determine what proportion of their staff are reached and offered vaccine .
The meningococcal and hepatitis B vaccination coverage level among HCWs in Hajj was suboptimal and the influenza vaccination rate was notably low. Recommended strategies to improve vaccination coverage among HCWs should be adopted by all health care facilities in Saudi Arabia to ensure adequate vaccination coverage particularly with the Hajj-related vaccines.
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