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Am Fam Physician. 2004;70(6):1168

Influenza Vaccination Among Health Care Workers

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) has issued a call to action on reducing influenza infection among health care workers. The NFID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as other infection control and major medical and nursing groups, have long recommended yearly influenza vaccination for all health care workers. However, only 36 percent actually are immunized each year. Health care workers include all personnel in a health care setting who have contact with patients.

Unvaccinated health care workers can be a key cause of influenza outbreaks in health care settings. These employees encounter high-risk patients throughout the influenza season in medical practices, general hospitals, specialty hospitals, long-term care and rehabilitation facilities, home-care sites, and other health care settings.

While many health care organizations conduct influenza vaccination programs, the impact of these programs on immunization rates has not been optimal. The NFID is calling on health care institutions, employers, insurers, and allied professional organizations to make a comprehensive, concerted effort to improve influenza vaccination rates among health care workers.

According to the NFID, measures should be taken to ensure health care workers are provided convenient access to influenza vaccination. Employers should commit resources toward institutionalizing immunization opportunities in the workplace, and to demonstrating that immunization is critical to employee and patient safety. The NFID recommends the following:

• Professional health care organizations should develop policies to support influenza immunization of health care workers and encourage their members to educate health care workers about the benefits of vaccination and the potential health consequences of influenza illness to patients and themselves.

• Those persons in management positions should become strong advocates to ensure health care workers/employees become vaccinated to accomplish better infection control, reduced absenteeism, and cost savings/effectiveness.

• Opportunities for influenza vaccination should be convenient for health care workers, and should be paid for by the employer.

• Health care workers should be reminded that vaccination is recommended annually, and that injectable vaccine cannot cause influenza. They also should be reminded that the influenza virus is transmitted easily and they are putting patients, themselves, their families, and others at risk if they do not get vaccinated.

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