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1.1 Million-Plus Healthcare Workers Vaccinated for Seasonal Flu in 2008 as Part of a Flu Vaccination Challenge

Joint Commission Resources (JCR) today announced the results of the first-ever Flu Vaccination Challenge, a program launched just prior to the 2008/2009 flu season to help increase flu vaccination among healthcare workers. During the program's inaugural year, JCR challenged hospitals across the country to achieve a seasonal flu vaccination rate of 43 percent or higher among their staff. The goal was based on results from a 2005/2006 national survey of healthcare worker seasonal flu vaccination rates.

With help from the Flu Vaccination Challenge, about 1.1 million healthcare workers were vaccinated against the seasonal flu, and 94 percent of participating hospitals met "the Challenge."  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all healthcare workers should be vaccinated to help decrease the spread of seasonal flu to patients, which can lead to serious health risks and even death. However, in recent years, flu vaccination rates among healthcare workers have continued to remain low. JCR is a not-for-profit affiliate of The Joint Commission.

More than 1,700 hospitals -- including at least one hospital from each of the 50 states -- participated in the Flu Vaccination Challenge. Approximately 78 percent of participating hospitals increased their healthcare workers' flu vaccination rate from the previous year. On average, the total number of healthcare workers vaccinated against seasonal flu among participating hospitals increased by 14 percent.

"We are thrilled with the level of participation and enthusiasm from the hundreds of hospitals across the country that participated in 'the Challenge'; however, we believe organizations can do better," said Barbara M. Soule, RN, MPA, CIC, practice leader for infection prevention and control services at JCR. "Despite the encouraging results, nearly 40 percent of healthcare workers among the participating hospitals were not vaccinated and remained unprotected against the flu. Influenza occurs in healthcare settings and studies have shown that healthcare workers are a potential source of these infections."

"All individuals who work in a healthcare facility should be vaccinated against the flu," said William Schaffner, MD, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine and professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "When we talk about whom to vaccinate, we have to change our mindset. Vaccination shouldn't be limited to doctors and nurses, it should be encouraged for everyone who works in a healthcare facility. The flu is a highly contagious disease; therefore if you work in a healthcare setting, you may be needlessly putting patients at risk if you are not vaccinated against this preventable disease."

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