A flu expert claimed incorrect information about the flu vaccine 'permeates' primary care and heavily criticised the 'spurious' reasons given by healthcare workers for not receiving the flu vaccine.
At a briefing in London on Wednesday, Professor Peter Openshaw, a physician at London's Imperial College NHS Trust, said: 'I think there are all sorts of interesting reasons given for not being vaccinated, but I really think they're mostly spurious.
'A very interesting question for me is why, as healthcare workers, we are so confident to speak on things that we haven't actually bothered to look up the facts on.'
He continued: 'If you go to the GP surgery and talk to the receptionist you're quite likely to get all sorts of facts about the flu vaccines which are completely incorrect but delivered with utter confidence. It permeates through the system.'
Professor Wendy Barclay, a virologist at Imperial College London, warned against doctors relying solely on self-diagnosis and avoiding working when they are sick to reduce risk to patients.
She said: 'Flu is a disease which may well spread from you to other people before you even know you're sick. That's one of the reasons it's so difficult to control.
'Doctors who think that they can suffer this rather than get vaccinated are misguided because they could have passed on their flu virus to their patient the day before when they were feeling perfectly well.'
She said vaccination, and therefore prevention of the infection in the first place, was the only way to control transmission from doctor to patient.'
Vaccination rates among healthcare workers remain low despite repeated annual calls to improve uptake.
Although GPs (38.2%) and practice nurses (42%) were among the most vaccinated healthcare workers last winter, they are much lower than other vaccinated groups and officials want rates to improve.
It has led to the first NHS-wide vaccination campaign, which launched last week.
Professor Openshaw said current delivery of the vaccine to healthcare workers was a 'major disincentive' due to time constraints in busy medical settings.
He said: 'When we instituted a touring vaccine squad that went round to coffee rooms in coffee time people were very happy to roll up their sleeves as it wasn’t going to take time out from their duties. I think we need to make it really easy and show excellent leadership.'