Receiving the influenza (flu) vaccine is the single best way to prevent contracting or spreading influenza, a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs.
- According to current national guidelines, unless medically contraindicated, all people age 6 months and older should be vaccinated against influenza every year.
- Those most susceptible to complications from the flu include young children, adults age 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions and/or weakened immune systems. However, flu can be severe in healthy persons of any age.
- Each year, the flu contributes to more than 220,000 hospitalizations and from 12,000 to 79,000 deaths in the United States.
- Healthcare personnel (HCP) connect with unvaccinated people daily, making it especially important for HCP to be vaccinated against the flu and reduce risk of spreading the viruses. Data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR) indicates only 30.4% flu vaccination coverage for all Michiganders aged 6 months and older for the 2018-2019 influenza season.
- MCIR can be used to assist in assessing immunization history and to document all vaccinations administered to HCP and patients.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed many resources to educate providers and their patients on the importance of influenza vaccination.
Flu vaccines are FDA-approved and the safest, most effective way to protect people from the flu.
- The influenza vaccine cannot cause the disease. Flu vaccines work by priming the body's defenses if a person is exposed to an actual flu virus. Injected vaccine contains dead viruses that are unable to produce illness. It takes about two weeks after receiving flu vaccine to develop full immunity, so it is possible for a person to contract the flu during the time immediately after being vaccinated.
- Side effects from the flu vaccine are generally uncommon and may include short-term soreness and/or redness at the injection site. Serious adverse reactions are extremely rare, and the benefits of receiving a flu vaccine far outweigh any risks.
Achieving high influenza vaccination rates of HCP is a critical step in preventing transmission of flu between HCP and patients.
- Since 1984, the CDC has recommended that all HCP receive the influenza vaccine every year.
- Influenza vaccination for HCP is an important part of patient safety and a comprehensive infection control program. Unvaccinated HCP can expose patients to the flu virus.
- The flu virus can be transmitted by both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. Only about 50% of infected people will develop the classic clinical symptoms of influenza; but 100% of infected people can spread the disease.
- Employees of healthcare organizations have both ethical and professional obligations to act in the best interests of their patients’ health.
- Multiple studies have shown that HCP influenza vaccination has reduced patient mortality.
- While presenteeism is common, healthcare professionals are also obliged to stay home from work when they are ill to avoid transmitting to their patients.
Hospitals are individually best positioned to understand the unique needs of their patients and communities. Requiring HCP vaccination is a local decision, made with the best interests of patients in mind.
- Hospitals have increased voluntary HCP influenza vaccination rates since 1981. An estimated 95.2% of hospital-based HCP nationwide reported receiving influenza vaccination in the 2018-2019 influenza season.
- A 2016 MDHHS survey showed that 77% of Michigan hospitals had mandatory flu vaccination policies for all staff.
- Multifaceted, employer-mandated vaccination programs have been found to be the single most effective strategy to increase HCP flu vaccination rates. Nationally, self-reported flu vaccination coverage among those required to be vaccinated was 97.7% compared with 42.1% among those not subject to a requirement.
- Mandating immunization is not a new concept. Many healthcare facilities have long required specific vaccines and a tuberculin skin test as conditions for employment or for working in specific areas of the facility.