Leading Health and Labor Organizations Call For Improved Influenza Vaccination Rates Among Healthcare Workers

BETHESDA, Md. -- Today, the nation's immunization

advisory committee received a call to action from the National Foundation for

Infectious Diseases (NFID) for a comprehensive, concerted effort by healthcare institutions, employers, insurers and allied professional organizations

to improve healthcare worker influenza immunization rates.

Twenty-four of the nation's leading professional health and labor organizations support a

newly issued NFID report, stressing this is an important goal for improved

public health and safety.

Kristin Nichol, MD, chair of NFID's National Coalition for Adult

Immunization Advisory Committee, presented the call to action at today's

Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Nichol shared the NFID report with the panel, which urges healthcare

organizations to develop policies and programs that impact healthcare worker

influenza immunization rates in medical practices, general hospitals,

specialty hospitals, long-term care and rehabilitation facilities, home care

sites and other healthcare settings.

William Schaffner, MD, NFID board member and professor and chair of the

department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt School of Medicine, said, "Low

influenza vaccination rates among healthcare workers pose a serious health

threat to the patients in their care, including infants and children, the

elderly and chronically ill. Measures must be taken to ensure healthcare

workers are provided convenient access to influenza vaccine and that employers

of healthcare workers commit programs and resources toward institutionalizing

immunization in the workplace."

Only 36 percent of all healthcare professionals are immunized against

influenza each year, despite long-standing recommendations for annual

vaccination. Several factors lead to low influenza vaccination rates among

health care workers, including lack of awareness among healthcare workers

that they are one of the groups urged to get an annual influenza vaccine, lack

of access to the vaccine, vaccine cost, misperception that influenza is not a

serious disease and low awareness/lack of concern about the potential spread

of the virus to patients. Influenza causes an average of 36,000 deaths and

114,000 hospitalizations per year.

"Research shows that health care workers can be a key cause of influenza

outbreaks in health care settings," said Schaffner. "Employees infected

with the virus can spread influenza to patients in their care -- many of which

are patients at high risk for influenza-related complications,

hospitalizations and death."

Healthcare institutions can help break down vaccination barriers to

increase immunization among healthcare workers, the report states, by

ensuring top management and administrators of healthcare institutions become

strong advocates for influenza immunization and make influenza vaccine

convenient for employees. The Call to Action also calls on healthcare

agencies to develop policies supporting healthcare worker influenza

immunization and encourages members to educate healthcare workers about the

benefits of vaccination and the potential consequences of influenza illness to

patients and themselves.

Among the more than 20 organizations that support NFID's Call to Action

are the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American Academy of

Pediatrics (AAP), American Association of Health Plans (AAHP), American

College of Physicians (ACP), American Health Care Association (AHCA), American

Medical Association (AMA), American Nurses Association (ANA), Association for

Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. (APIC), Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid

Services (CMS), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Service

Employees International Union (SEIU), Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of

America (SHEA) and other key stakeholder groups.

NFID developed the new Call to Action report from proceedings of a

roundtable meeting held last November in Washington, D.C. Representatives

from these organizations reviewed policies and practices aimed at health care

workers to reach a consensus on the best ways employers and professional

organizations can positively affect vaccination rates of their employees.

In addition to this report, which is online at the NFID Web site,

http://www.nfid.org, NFID plans to develop and issue a more comprehensive monograph

from this summit that will outline key strategies to serve as national models

for improving health care worker immunization rates.

Founded in 1973, NFID is a non-profit organization dedicated to public and

professional educational programs about, and in support of, research into

causes, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. This healthcare

worker initiative was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant

to NFID from Aventis Pasteur.

Source: National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID)

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