Still walking around with our pandemic-response-pants down
So I’ve been reading about previous pandemics on the new History of Vaccines site: smallpox, Spanish flu, Bird flu, Swine flu… All have had big impacts on our society and shows how vulnerable we really are. But at least we can rest assured that we’ve seen this coming, planned it out, and can act quickly in the case of a pandemic. Or maybe not, as a recent report in Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has shown. Turns out less than 50% of workers critical to the response to a pandemic would not be able and willing to come to work if a pandemic broke out.
An anonymous survey was handed to people of the wide ranges of professions: scientists, correctional facility workers, public health workers, police and firemen, etc. While 80% of people surveyed said they’d be able to work during a pandemic, only 65% said they were willing. Less than 50% were both able and willing to work.
People that said they weren’t willing to work were more likely to say that they had lower trust in their employer to protect them adequately from the pandemic.They were more likely to be willing to work if they’d previously worked in a pandemic situation or had access to respirators, pandemic vaccines, or a pandemic situation plan.
Most of the survey responents (91%) did not know that their organisation even had a pandemic situation plan. Only 15% of them had had training for pandemic influenza situations.
This report really showed (to me, at least) how we could really be caught with our pants down if a big, deadly pandemic influenza came rampaging through the world. We’ve been reminded so many times that pandemic influenza could really dampen our parade (a light euphemism for complete and utter rioting and chaos), and yet things like a potential lacking response rate have only recently been found out. And it scares the crap out of me.
Gershon RR, Magda LA, Qureshi KA, Riley HE, Scanlon E, Carney MT, Richards RJ, & Sherman MF (2010). Factors Associated With the Ability and Willingness of Essential Workers to Report to Duty During a Pandemic. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine / American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine PMID: 20881624