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Flu vaccines for staffers are part of patient safety

August 29, 2018
From the August 2018 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

According to the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital FAQ web page, “The safety and well-being of our patients are at the heart of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital’s mission. Each year, approximately 36,000 people die and 226,000 are hospitalized due to the flu. These are preventable deaths. Requiring an annual flu vaccine demonstrates our commitment to protect the safety and health of our patients, many of whom already have weakened immune systems, as well as visitors, co-workers and our families.”

Participation programs
The same can be said about participating in flu shot programs as buckling your seat belt when getting in a car. That seat belt is there to protect you from serious injury or death. Flu shot vaccines are the same; the vaccine has protective qualities irrespective of the strain. Hospitals, along with the CDC, have developed programs that educate apprehensive healthcare employees. The CDC offers help with communication to staff, including a customizable brochure for in-house employees called “I Won’t Spread the Flu”. To further that end, hospitals have also included incentive programs to garner employee support. Examples include the following:

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- Gift certificates to popular local coffee shops for participants
- Cash incentives
- Acknowledgement/Participation stickers for employee badges

Unfortunately, there are still employees that refuse to participate, and healthcare systems don’t want to end up with a costly and often public legal battle. Some facilities require non-participating employees to wear a paper respirator during flu season while working in the hospital.

Going deeper with vaccine demands
Premiere health systems in the United States are expanding the demand for staff to have flu shots to include outside vendors working in their facilities. UNC Healthcare and the Cleveland Clinic have programs or plans that ask for contractors to receive flu shot vaccines. Many children’s hospitals are also demanding vendors comply with an internal requirement for vaccines.

Johns Hopkins’ inclusion policy not only focuses on outside vendors working in the facility, it also includes volunteers, students, trainees, and temporary workers in flu vaccine participation.

The CDC makes similar observations while noting the imperative to create better shots. “Although more effective vaccines are needed, vaccination prevents a substantial burden of influenza-related illness annually,” the agency wrote in its latest flu report. The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends not only clinical staff be vaccinated, it includes, dietary, pharmacy, laundry, security, maintenance, billing, and even autopsy personnel.

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