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Kern hospital employees least vaccinated in California

Photo: James Gathany / CDC via MGN, file

As we enter the peak of flu season, dozens of local residents will end up in hospitals for treatment.

What they may not know is that many of the people treating them have not received a flu shot.

Last year, Kern County had the lowest immunization rate among hospital employees in the state, with only 70 percent getting the flu shot.

We hear it every year, medical professionals telling us to get the flu shot. However, the data shows many of their own co-workers aren't getting the flu shot.

According to the California Department of Public Health, last year at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital only 62 percent of employees got vaccinated, 65 percent at Kern Medical, 54 percent at Mercy Hospital, 52 percent at Mercy Southwest, and 78 percent at Adventist Health.

In fact, the study shows only four hospitals in Kern County are meeting the state's expectations of 81 percent immunized staff: Bakersfield Heart Hospital, Delano Regional Medical Center, Ridgecrest Regional Medical Center and Tehachapi Hospital.

So why are people who work in hospitals, surrounded by the sick and immune-system compromised, not getting the shot?

According to Laura Cunanan, vice president of nursing at Bakersfield Heart Hospital, health care workers don't get immunized for the same reasons as everyone else.

"Some are allergic, some have religious concerns, some think they'll get the flu if they get the flu shot," said Cunanan.

Cunanan said the Heart Hospital takes time to educate its employees on flu shot myths and the benefits of getting the shot. They also make the shot available for all shifts.

The Heart Hospital, like many others in the county, requires employees who don't get immunized to wear a mask while in patient care areas.

The state's goal is to have all hospital staffs 90 percent immunized by 2020.

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