Group Calls for Mandatory Flu Vaccine For Hospital Health Care Workers

ACEP News
October 2009

Health care workers with direct patient contact should be vaccinated, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology said.

By Michele G. Sullivan
Elsevier Global Medical News 

Hospitals should require all health care workers with direct patient contact to be vaccinated against both seasonal influenza and the pandemic A(H1N1) flu, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology has said.

If workers decline vaccinations, they should be required to sign a statement acknowledging that their action may put patients at risk of contracting the disease, according to a policy paper.

"Employees who are not vaccinated can transmit both seasonal flu and H1N1 virus to vulnerable patients in health care situations," Christine J. Nutty, R.N., president of the association, said in a statement. "Current rates of health care worker immunizations are appallingly low and must not be tolerated. It's time for hospitals to require flu shots and hold employees accountable for declining the vaccine."

Despite recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, survey data from 2005 to 2006 show that just 42% of health care workers with patient contact had been vaccinated against influenza. Making vaccination a requirement rather than an option will probably drive up this number, the paper said.

"Immunization requirements are effective in increasing vaccination rates. Health care professional vaccination rates for measles, mumps, rubella, and tuberculosis screening have been successful in achieving near universal compliance. Requiring an influenza vaccine should similarly be highly effective."

Vaccination of health care workers will not only protect patients by limiting their exposure to the virus, but help ensure that hospitals function at their full ability.

"We want to be certain that health care personnel are protected against both seasonal flu and the 2009 H1N1 virus," said Linda Greene, R.N., lead author of the position paper and the director of infection control at Rochester (N.Y.) General Health System. "Otherwise, facilities could face a double problem of increased illness and absenteeism among staff coupled with overcrowded EDs."

Physicians and nurses are not the only ones who should be vaccinated, the paper said. "All employees with direct patient contact should be immunized annually, including physicians, nurses, therapists, dieticians, religious workers, environmental services, and kitchen staff."

APIC is the nation's largest infection prevention organization, with 12,000 members.

The full statement is available at www.apic.org

 

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