This fall and winter, approximately 150 million doses of flu vaccine will be administered across the U.S during the influenza season – which means one injection will be given to almost 1 in every 2 U.S. citizens. Safe in Common, a non-profit organization established to promote needlestick safety and build a community of healthcare safety advocates, today issued a reminder to healthcare facilities and other public sites that will administer the flu vaccine to use syringes with safety features that can protect providers from the risk needlestick injuries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone who is at least six months of age get a flu vaccine before the flu season, which the CDC tracks from October 2012 to May 2013. Administration of the flu vaccine will occur in both controlled environments, such as hospitals and physician’s offices, as well as shopping malls, drug stores and other public areas.
The majority of flu vaccine doses will be administered to patients in either a prefilled or hypodermic syringe. To comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)'s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, employers are required to use syringes with safety-engineered equipment, where commercially available, to help protect healthcare personnel and others at potential risk of infection from HIV, hepatitis C and other modes via needlestick injuries. Employers who fail to comply with the requirements of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard risk being issued with citations and financial penalties by OSHA.
According to Mary Foley, PhD, RN, chairperson of Safe in Common, healthcare personnel and other employees engaged in the administration of a flu vaccine are among those at greatest risk of needlestick injury.
“The hectic environments where flu vaccines are often given, as well as safety deficiencies in the syringes typically used for these injections, can put healthcare personnel at significant risk of incurring a needlestick injury. Safe in Common is calling for all providers of the flu vaccine to stock sufficient supplies of safety-engineered equipment and appropriate disposal systems to cover every flu vaccine that will be given at their site,” Foley says.
Because flu vaccines are typically administered by intramuscular injection, it is routine procedure for syringes to be supplied without needles so that healthcare personnel can select a needle of appropriate length to accommodate the needs of each target patient. Foley says the safety needles that are commonly used for intramuscular injections provided healthcare personnel with sub-optimal levels of protection.
“The goal for every injection where there is risk of a needlestick injury should be the removal of harm as quickly as possible. All too often, flu vaccinations are given with syringes that are attached with standard luer needles. This is no longer acceptable practice within U.S. healthcare facilities, and we encourage people to speak up when they see syringes without safety features being used.
“But even where a safety product such as a needle guard is utilized, an operator must first remove the used syringe from the body of the patient before manually engaging the needlestick prevention mechanism. Needlestick injuries often occur either before or during the activation of these manual safety products, or because the operator elects not to engage the safety mechanism at all. We encourage pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide their flu vaccines prefilled with products with integrated and automatic safety features that can deliver optimal levels of protection to healthcare personnel. We also want to let healthcare personnel know that if these devices are not available currently, they have the right to demand them. It is their health that is at risk,” Foley adds.
OSHA estimates that 5.6 million workers in the U.S. healthcare industry are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens via needlestick injuries and other sharps-related injuries and the CDC reports that 385,000 needlestick injuries and other sharps-related injuries are sustained annually by hospital-based healthcare personnel.
Safe in Common works to eradicate needlestick and sharps related injuries and to promote the adoption of safer engineering controls in healthcare settings through education and training. Backed by a community of thousands of healthcare personnel, SIC is raising awareness of Needlestick injury prevention and gathering signatures for the organization’s Needlestick Safety Pledge as a step toward prevention.
For more information about Safe in Common or to learn about partnership opportunities and the Organization’s ongoing work to promote utilizing safer engineering controls that protect healthcare workers from unnecessary needlestick and sharps related injuries, visit http://www.safeincommon.org.