Nation's Infectious Disease Experts Issue Comprehensive Report Stressing the Need to Improve Dangerously Low Influenza Vaccination Rates Among Healthcare Workers

BETHESDA, Md. -- The National Foundation for

Infectious Diseases (NFID) has issued a comprehensive report stressing the

importance of annual influenza vaccination among healthcare workers and urges

health care institutions to help facilitate annual employee influenza

immunization programs.  The report was issued in response to dismal influenza

immunization rates among health care workers, despite long-standing

recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Unvaccinated health care workers can transmit the highly contagious influenza

virus to patients in their care.

   

"Alarmingly, only 36 percent of U.S. healthcare workers are immunized

against influenza each year, which means the majority of health care workers

remain unprotected and may report to work when they have influenza and can

easily spread the virus to patients," said William Schaffner, MD, NFID board

member and professor and chair of the department of preventive medicine at

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.  "NFID urges healthcare

organizations to recognize annual health care worker influenza vaccination is

an important infection control measure and patient safety issue."

  

 The comprehensive report, Improving Influenza Vaccination Rates in

Health Care Workers: Strategies to Increase Protection for Workers and

Patients, provides details about the overall impact of influenza among healthcare workers and shares data regarding the lack of knowledge among healthcare

workers about influenza immunization and its impact on patient safety.

   

There are many benefits of healthcare worker vaccination, the report

states, including decreased illness leading to reduced absenteeism among

health care workers, as well as reduced medical visits and antibiotic use.

The benefits to patients, however, are even greater.  Immunization of healthcare workers has been shown to reduce mortality among geriatric patients in

long-term care facilities.  In fact, healthcare worker immunization can help

reduce the risk of influenza outbreaks among patients in all types of healthcare facilities.

   

"Healthcare worker immunization is an employee and patient safety

imperative," said Kristin Nichol, MD, MPH, chair of NFID's National Coalition

for Adult Immunization Advisory Committee, professor of medicine at the

University of Minnesota and chief of medicine at the VA Medical Center in

Minneapolis.  "Unvaccinated healthcare workers can introduce influenza into a

facility or propagate an outbreak.  As healthcare providers and employers, it

is our responsibility to follow the same advice we give our patients: receive

an annual vaccination to help protect against influenza and its serious

complications."

 

Healthcare workers infected with influenza can transmit the disease to

patients in their care, many of them at an increased risk for influenza-

related complications.  Influenza can lead to increased hospitalization and,

in some cases, even death.  On the average, influenza is responsible for

36,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations annually nationwide.

   

In addition to patient safety, influenza immunization among health care

workers has economic benefits to employers.  The report cites one study

showing vaccination among healthy individuals under 65 years of age, which

includes health care workers, is cost effective, resulting in 25 percent fewer

episodes of respiratory illness, 43 percent fewer days of sick leave from work

due to respiratory illness and 44 percent fewer visits to physician's offices

for upper respiratory illness.

 

NFID's report highlights effective strategies and best practice models

healthcare institutions can employ to improve, update or establish their own

employee vaccination programs and/or policies. The majority of healthcare

facilities with successful immunization guidelines or initiatives incorporate

multiple interventions, such as:

 

     * Securing commitment to healthcare worker influenza vaccination from

       top management

 

     * Developing a policy statement affirming the institution's commitment

 

     * Educating healthcare workers about the benefits of vaccination for

       themselves and their patients

 

     * Making influenza vaccine easily accessible

 

     * Repeating the influenza immunization program annually

 

NFID developed this comprehensive resource from proceedings of an expert

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

from more than 20 of the nation's top health and labor organizations, hospital

chains and government institutions reviewed policies and practices to reach a

consensus on the best ways employers and professional organizations can

positively affect influenza vaccination rates of healthcare workers.

   

Among the more than 20 organizations that contributed to the roundtable

were the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of

Pediatrics, American Association of Health Plans, American College of

Physicians, American Health Care Association, American Medical Association,

American Nurses Association, Association for Professionals in Infection

Control and Epidemiology, Inc., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Occupational Safety and Health

Administration, Service Employees International Union, Society for Healthcare

Epidemiology of America and other key stakeholder groups.

  

 In February 2004, NFID and these supporting organizations delivered an

urgent call to action for the medical and infection control communities to

work aggressively toward increasing influenza vaccination among health care

workers.

 

Source: National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

   

 

 

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