The Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP) has joined the growing ranks of industry groups that are calling for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to consider a vaccination policy that makes annual flu shots mandatory for healthcare workers, which AOHP defines as any paid or unpaid person working in any healthcare setting.
AOHP, which calls itself “the only national professional organization with the exclusive mission of addressing the needs and concerns of occupational health professionals in healthcare settings,” recently released a position statement that recommends annual flu shots along with other mandatory vaccinations, including hepatitis B and MMR, for healthcare workers.
AOHP also asks administrators “to consider a policy that makes annual influenza vaccination mandatory (with medical exemptions) or offer alternatives to vaccination such as requiring the use of surgical masks for patient care by healthcare workers who refuse the vaccine.” It says the vaccines should be offered for free and must comply with state and federal regulations.
Mandatory flu vaccination for healthcare personnel is already recommended by organizations such as the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS), and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).
Many healthcare workers know that getting a flu shot each fall helps protect not only themselves, but coworkers, friends, family, and, most notably, patients. Some have legitimate objections to being vaccinated, such as an allergy or a strong religious belief. However, there are still healthcare workers who simply oppose the mandatory nature of these policies.
Despite that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends flu shots for all healthcare personnel, reported a vaccination rate of over 95% during the 2015-16 flu season for healthcare workers whose employers required them to get vaccinated for seasonal influenza, which compared to a 79% vaccination rate overall among healthcare workers.
“Over and over again, the research has shown that the mandatory vaccination policies are the strongest indicator of high vaccination rates among healthcare personnel,” says Terri Rebmann, PhD, RN, CIC, FAPIC, the director of the Institute for Biosecurity at Saint Louis University and a professor in epidemiology and biostatistics at the university.
She adds: “It’s really important for healthcare personnel to be vaccinated because they are in really close contact with the most vulnerable of our populations. If the healthcare personnel become infected, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms, when they shed the influenza virus during patient care activities, they can then expose those really high-risk patients.”
Editor’s note: With the next flu season right around the corner, Rebmann will host on July 31 an HCPro webinar entitled “Infection-Free Vaccination: Safely Storing, Handling, Injecting, and Infusing Medications.” During the 90-minute webinar, she will explain how improper administration of vaccines can result in injuries or prevent the vaccines from providing optimal protection. She will also discuss the components of safe storage, handling, injection, and infusion practices for vaccines and how to put them into action. Click here for more information.