Mandatory flu shots prove successful in two systems

By: June 10th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

The following is an excerpt from an article on HealthLeaders Media discussing mandatory flu shots.

Every year, medical facilities plead with employees to get their annual influenza vaccinations. Some initiate campaigns as early as August, explaining the value of receiving the flu shot as well as the patient safety implications and worker safety benefits.

But despite even the most rigorous efforts, medical facilities often struggle to get flu shot rates over 50%.

A CDC report published April 2 indicated that by mid-January, nearly 62% of healthcare workers had been vaccinated against seasonal influenza, although only 37% had been vaccinated against H1N1 influenza. In previous years, rates have never been above 49%.However, the CDC reported a 97.6% vaccination rate among facilities requiring seasonal flu shots, compared to 64.5% in facilities that only recommended the vaccine. Only 11.1% of facilities had a required policy.

Two particularly large hospital systems have taken on the challenge of implementing a mandatory flu shot policy within the past two years and have seen their compliance rates improve to as high as 98%. Although a mandatory policy eliminates the constant struggle to convince employees to get the shot, it’s not without its own barriers.

In 2008, St. Louis–based BJC HealthCare, one of the largest nonprofit healthcare organizations in the United States with nearly 26,000 employees, made influenza vaccines a condition of employment. After years of voluntary vaccination programs that included incentives, leadership champions, and declination statements, BJC still could not climb above a 71% vaccination rate, according to Hilary M. Babcock, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine and medical director of occupational health (infectious diseases) at Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s Hospitals, both in St. Louis and members of BJC HealthCare.

“[We] really just thought that we had pretty much exhausted all of the voluntary efforts,” Babcock says. “Despite all of these many years of trying, we really hadn’t gotten to where we wanted to be. So that’s really what drove the decision to decide on the mandatory policy. We really felt it was an important patient safety issue to get our staff vaccinated.”

For only $99 HCPro will help you navigate the sticky issues around mandatory flu shots
Seasonal and H1N1 influenza have prompted many healthcare facilities to consider mandatory influenza immunization for employees. The reaction from employees has been unmistakably vocal, as issues of patient safety and workers’ rights clash. Join HCPro for Mandatory Influenza Vaccinations: Get Healthcare Staff Onboard at Your Facility on Wednesday, July 14, at 1 p.m. (Eastern) for a 90-minute webcast that will provide you with the medical and legal perspectives for developing a mandatory influenza immunization policy.


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