Health Care Personnel Influenza Vaccines

Influenza is a highly contagious disease that can be spread before symptoms appear and results in about 150,000 hospital admissions and 24,000 deaths annually. Hospitalized patients are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of influenza because their immune systems are often compromised by the illness that caused their admission or the treatments they are undergoing. Vaccination of health care personnel (HCPs) has been shown to prevent illness and death in patients, and reduce influenza infections and absenteeism among HCPs. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended annual vaccination of HCPs since 1981, only about half of HCPs in the United States are immunized annually. In recent years, more and more hospitals and health care organizations are putting into place policies making seasonal influenza vaccinations mandatory for employees, affiliated medical staff, students, volunteers and contract workers as part of their commitment to patient safety. These policies often have resulted in vaccination rates above 90 percent.

In 2011, the OHA board of directors created a position statement supporting mandatory employee influenza vaccinations as a condition of employment. Several Oklahoma hospitals have adopted this policy with little resistance from employees. The key is communication and education.

The OHA board approved the following position statement: The OHA Board of Trustees encourages hospitals to implement a mandatory patient safety policy that addresses influenza vaccination for hospital employees.

Since the 2012-2013 influenza season, the OHA Council on Quality and Patient Safety has issued an employee influenza vaccination challenge to hospitals. The goal, set by the council is a 96% rate for participating OHA members. Click here for the outcome of the employee influenza challenge.