A new study reported that more than half of hospitals still do not require their doctors, nurses, and other healthcare personnel to get the flu vaccine. Findings from the study are published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
In 2013, a survey of infection prevention specialists on their hospitals’ flu vaccine policies was carried out by the University of Michigan and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. Of the 386 hospitals that responded, only 42.7% said they required flu vaccines for all healthcare providers. Another 10% responded saying they would require it for the next flu season. Among the VA hospitals, only 1.3% required flu vaccinations.
Opposition from healthcare worker unions or concerns about staff opposition was cited as reasons by the non-VA infection prevention specialists for keeping their hospitals from requiring vaccination. The concern regarding union opposition was greater among VA hospitals where over one-fourth (27.6%) of surveyed infection control staff said it was a factor in the lack of a flu vaccination requirement. Researchers also noted the difference in willingness of hospital administrators to implement the vaccine requirement, with 22% of surveyed specialists saying their administration would not mandate the vaccine.
About 22% of non-VA hospitals said their staff was “strongly encouraged” to receive the flu vaccine. Due to federal restrictions, over half of the 77 surveyed VA hospitals stated that they could not mandate the vaccine.
Senior author of the study, Sanjay Saint, MD, MPH, explained that vaccination of healthcare workers “significantly reduce[s] patients’ risk of influenza and its complications, including pneumonia and death, compared with vaccination of patients alone.” Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccination for all healthcare personnel who provide direct patient care.
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