Background Influenza is an important public health issue, even amongst healthy adults. The influenza vaccine should be offered to elite athletes for reasons including; a reduction in immune response at certain times of training, travel, close contacts amongst athletes and the consequences of contracting influenza. Athlete uptake of the influenza vaccine can depend on the attitudes of coaches, fellow athletes and support staff. Influenza vaccine uptake rates amongst elite athletes is limited. International studies have documented a fear amongst elite athletes of the potential side effects of the influenza vaccine.
Objective To determine the influenza vaccine uptake rates in elite athletes and their support staff along with their attitudes, fears, and barriers to receiving it.
Design A cross sectional survey.
Setting Ireland Institute of Sport. Elite athletes and support staff in athletics, boxing, cycling, rowing, swimming, judo, para athletics and others were invited to participate in an anonymous online survey.
Patients (or Participants) Elite athletes & their support staff on the 2019 database of the Ireland Institute of Sport.
Main Outcome Measurements Elite athlete influenza vaccine uptake rates, knowledge and attitudes to the influenza vaccine.
From 193 athletes and staff invited, 86 (43 male, 43 female) participated of which 58 were athletes. 50 participants received the influenza vaccine during the 2018/2019 season, 36 did not. 46.5% completely agree that the influenza vaccine is safe. A significant number (39%) of athletes fear that the vaccine itself would make them unwell even though most (59%) are concerned about contracting the flu every year. 59.3% of participants would recommend the influenza vaccine to other athletes.
Conclusions Less than half of elite athletes and staff believe the influenza vaccine is completely safe but the majority would recommend it to others. Addressing the barriers to receiving the influenza vaccine remains a key issue.
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