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)