- OSHA Healthcare Advisor - http://blogs.hcpro.com/osha -

NY lifts required flu vaccinations for healthcare workers

New York Governor David A. Paterson announced Thursday evening [1] that the State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. has suspended the mandatory influenza vaccines for healthcare workers.

The rationale has more to do with a shortage of the H1N1 vaccine than the temporary restraining order [2] that was handed down by a judge last week,  State Department of Health spokeswoman Claudia Hutton told the New York Times [3].

“Since the vaccine is so scarce right now and since the virus has proved especially difficult for pregnant women and young people — there have been deaths — we felt that the best use of the scarce amount of vaccine right now is for those populations,” Hutton told the Times.

“Over the last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged that New York would only receive approximately 23 percent of its anticipated vaccine supply by the end of the month,” Governor Paterson said in his released statement. “As a result, we need to be as resourceful as we can with the limited supplies of vaccine currently coming into the State and make sure that those who are at the highest risk for complications from the H1N1 flu receive the first vaccine being distributed right now in New York State.”

During the summer, as hospitals planned for an elevated flu season with H1N1, the federal government promised 120 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine would be available by the end of October. The CDC acknowledged that just 27.7 million doses would be available by the end of the month. The CDC also estimated that 200 million doses would be available by the end of November. The current projection stands at just 65.9 million. As of October 14, just over 204,000 doses have been shipped to New York [4].

The federal government has blamed the lag on the need to ensure the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness and snags at factories filling vials with the vaccine, according to the Washington Post [5].

Daines noted that because vaccines are coming in at a slower pace than expected, it would be impossible to vaccinate all healthcare workers by the November 30 deadline set forth in the emergency regulation [6].

“We had told hospitals that if they had to choose between vaccinating patients or employees to vaccinate patients first,” Daines in the statement. “This week, the CDC confirmed that most of the national supply of seasonal flu vaccine has been distributed, and that H1N1 vaccine distribution is far behind projections. New evidence is showing that H1N1 can be especially virulent to pregnant women and young people – so they should get vaccinated first.”

The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) released a statement today [7] welcoming suspension. The association opposed the regulation arguing it infringed on the rights of healthcare workers and it was an ineffective means of preventing transmission from workers to patients.

“”We agree that the flu vaccine must first be made available to those who need it most children, young adults, and pregnant women,” said Tina Gerardi, RN, chief executive officer of the NYSNA said in the statement. “The suspension of this regulation also gives us the opportunity to work with the department to develop an effective program to prevent the spread of influenza in hospitals and other healthcare settings.”

This seems to be the final peice of the puzzle for a first-of-its-kind regulation, that has been hotly debated among healthcare workers [8]. Are you happy or discouraged that the state has decided to rescind the regulation? Let us know in the comments section below.