AAFP Supports Mandatory Flu Vaccinations for Health Care Personnel

New Policy Allows Exemptions Only for Medical, Religious Reasons

June 13, 2011 05:25 pm News Staff

The AAFP has joined a growing list of health care organizations that support and promote mandatory annual influenza vaccinations for health care personnel. On June 8, the Academy adopted a policy that calls for all health care personnel to receive the vaccine each year, with exceptions based only on medical or religious reasons, not on personal preference.

[Stock photo of pregnant woman talking with her doctor]

The AAFP has adopted a policy calling for mandatory annual influenza vaccination of health care personnel. Such a policy prevents the spread of the disease, protecting the vaccine recipient, patients and colleagues.

Furthermore, the policy statement says that for health care personnel who are not vaccinated, policies that call for adjusted practice activities, such as wearing masks or refraining from direct patient contact, are appropriate during flu season.

"Patients within their medical home should expect the highest level of protection from their clinicians," Jonathan Temte, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, told AAFP News Now. "As our patients are often medically vulnerable, prevention of transmission from a health care worker is essential to complete and conscientious medical practice."

Although the ACIP, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, and the AAFP have recommended(4 page PDF) for years that all health care workers receive annual influenza immunizations, less than half of health care workers are immunized against the flu each year(www.nfid.org), says the CDC.

According to the 2010 AAFP member survey, more than 90 percent of respondents who provided vaccines to their patients were themselves immunized against the flu during the 2009-10 influenza season, and more than 90 percent of their staff received the vaccine, as well.

Numerous health care organizations have adopted policies similar to the one recently created by the AAFP. They are

  • the American Academy of Pediatrics,
  • the American College of Physicians,
  • the American Medical Directors Association,
  • the American Pharmacists Association,
  • the American Public Health Association,
  • the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology,
  • the Infectious Diseases Society of America,
  • the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases,
  • the National Patient Safety Foundation, and
  • the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

"Institutional and professional organization support is necessary to enhance the current low rates of influenza vaccination among health care personnel," said Temte, who also is a professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison. "The adoption of this policy by the AAFP will help in this approach as we join our primary care colleagues in pediatrics and internal medicine.

"There has been extensive and thoughtful evaluation and assessment of the ethics behind such a policy, and this is in keeping with good medical practice."