Caregiving and influenza risk

Caregiving has traditionally been a female area, both domestically and in the workplace. Due to the nature of influenza, healthcare workers and those in close contact with young children are at a greater risk of exposure to influenza viruses, both seasonal outbreaks and pandemic strains (Zhang et al 2011). Studies have generally shown compliance rates from as low as 10% to 40-50% among healthcare workers, with no clear pattern to ascertain why this is (Tell Me 2012).

Women represent more than 50% of the healthcare workforce in many countries; also, in most countries nurses, teachers and childcare workers are mainly female (WHO 2010). For example, 80.2% of employees in the Irish health services are women, and women account for 92.1% of nurses (CSO 2013). Front-line workers face disproportionate risks of illness and death during a pandemic; Godderis and Rossiter (2013) argue that this increased risk of illness and death is an issue that is both moral and gendered, and therefore fundamentally social in its nature and not just a medical issue. Studies in Greece and Canada have found that male healthcare workers are more likely to have the intention to be vaccinated, and in Sicily to be vaccinated against H1N1 than female health-care workers (Bish et al 2011).

Another issue the responsibility for care giving in the home for both children and ill family members – this is a large risk factor for exposure to the influenza virus, and is a role predominantly occupied by women It has been shown that women who work outside the home have a lower risk of developing a viral illness, suggesting that societal roles such as childcare is a risk factor in acquiring influenza. In addition to this, caregivers may not be able to seek adequate treatment because of their caring responsibilities, thereby leading to delayed treatment (WHO 2010). Women’s care giving role often affects their workplace participation, which in turn contributes to poorer health in older age – also, women may not have been in the workforce long enough to accrue support in terms of for example retirement funds (Davidson et al 2011). Care giving thus creates a number of issues regarding vaccination, which affects women both at the time of an influenza infection and also potentially further on in the life course.



Bish, A., Yardley, L., Nicoll, A., and Michie, S. (2011) ‘Factors associated with uptake of vaccination against pandemic influenza: A systematic review’ Vaccine, 29(38), 6472-6484.
Central Statistics Office (2013) Women and Men in Ireland 2013, available: [accessed 15 August 2014].
Davidson, P.M., DiGiacomo, M., and McGrath, S.J. (2011) ‘The feminization of aging: how will this impact on health outcomes and services?’ Health Care for Women International, 32(12), 1031-1045.
Godderis, R. and Rossiter, K. (2013) ‘”If you have a soul, you will volunteer at once”: gendered expectations of duty to care during pandemics’, Sociology of Health & Illness, 35(2), 304-308.
Tell Me (Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence) (2012) D1.7 Population behaviour in Epidemics Summary Report, Brussels: European Commission.
World Health Organisation (2010) Sex, gender and influenza, Geneva: World Health Organisation.
Zhang, J., While, A.E. and Norman I.J. (2011) ‘Nurses’ knowledge and risk perception towards seasonal influenza and vaccination and their vaccination behaviours: A cross-sectional survey’, International Journal of Nursing Studies, 48(10), 1281-1289.

MMLAP and other EU Projects

Health system analysis to support capacity development in response to the threat of pandemic influenza in Asia
Making society an active participant in water adaptation to global change
Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation
Engaging all of Europe in shaping a desirable and sustainable future
Expect the unexpected and know how to respond
Driving innovation in crisis management for European resilience
Effective communication in outbreak management: development of an evidence-based tool for Europe
Solutions to improve CBRNe resilience
Network for Communicable Disease Control in Southern Europe and Mediterranean Countries
Developing the framework for an epidemic forecast infrastructure
Strengthening of the national surveillance system for communicable diseases
Surveillance of vaccine preventable hepatitis
European monitoring of excess mortality for public health action
European network for highly infectious disease
Dedicated surveillance network for surveillance and control of vaccine preventable diseases in the EU
Modelling the spread of pandemic influenza and strategies for its containment and mitigation
Cost-effectiveness assessment of european influenza human pandemic alert and response strategies
Bridging the gap between science, stakeholders and policy makers
Promotion of immunization for health professionals in Europe
Towards inclusive research programming for sustainable food innovations
Addressing chronic diseases and healthy ageing across the life cycle
Medical ecosystem – personalized event-based surveillance
Studying the many and varied economic, social, legal and ethical aspects of the recent developments on the Internet, and their consequences for the individual and society at large
Get involved in the responsible marine research and innovation
Knowledge-based policy-making on issues involving science, technology and innovation, mainly based upon the practices in Parliamentary Technology Assessment
Assessment of the current pandemic preparedness and response tools, systems and practice at national, EU and global level in priority areas
Analysis of innovative public engagement tools and instruments for dynamic governance in the field of Science in Society
Public Engagement with Research And Research Engagement with Society
Computing Veracity – the Fourth Challenge of Big Data
Providing infrastructure, co-ordination and integration of existing clinical research networks on epidemics and pandemics
Promote vaccinations among migrant population in Europe
Creating mechanisms for effectively tackling the scientific and technology related challenges faced by society
Improve the quality of indoor air, keeping it free from radon
Improving respect of ethics principles and laws in research and innovation, in line with the evolution of technologies and societal concerns
Investigating how cities in the West securitise against global pandemics
Creating a structured dialogue and mutual learning with citizens and urban actors by setting up National Networks in 10 countries across Europe
Identifying how children can be change agents in the Science and Society relationship
Establishing an open dialogue between stakeholders concerning synthetic biology’s potential benefits and risks
Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence