Influenza is a serious health threat, especially for vulnerable populations like older adults and people living with long-term chronic medical conditions, like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney and liver disorders. So, it’s especially important that all people living with or caring for those with chronic medical conditions and/or aging persons – including those working in long-term care (LTC) facilities – get vaccinated against the flu and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
Healthcare personnel (HCP) in LTC facilities may have direct or indirect contact with older adults, persons with disabilities, and persons with chronic medical conditions receiving care. Studies have attributed influenza outbreaks in LTC facilities and hospitals to low influenza vaccination coverage among HCP in those facilities. During a confirmed flu outbreak in an LTCF, up to one in three residents and one in four staff develop flu-like illness. Preventing flu among HCP can help reduce the spread of flu in vulnerable LTC resident populations.
The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. HCP should get their flu vaccinations by October if possible (or soon after the flu vaccine becomes available). Since it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop after being vaccinated, make sure your HCP staff are vaccinated early in the flu season so that they are protected before flu becomes prevalent in the community and in the LTC facilities.
Continued efforts are needed to ensure HCP are vaccinated early in the flu season. Vaccination coverage among certain HCP, especially those in long-term care facilities, and among assistants and aides and administrative and non-clinical support staff in all work settings needs the most improvement.
There are a number of studies that show proven interventions to promote flu vaccination among HCP each season. Some strategies that employers should use to reduce barriers to HCP vaccination include offering flu vaccination onsite over multiple days and shifts, free of charge, and with frequent and strong promotion.
To help LTC employers increase flu vaccination among healthcare personnel in LTC settings, the National Vaccine Program Office and CDC launched a Toolkit for Long-Term Care Employers. This comprehensive toolkit includes a number of resources intended to help long-term care facility, agency, or corporation owners and administrators provide access to flu vaccination for their workforce and to help LTC employers understand the importance of flu vaccination for their employees.
The toolkit includes information about:
•Why it is important to vaccinate LTC healthcare personnel
•Vaccination coverage rates
•Resources to increase awareness
•Community best practices
•Guidance related to flu prevention, outbreak and response.
Manufacturers have started shipping flu vaccines for this season. Make sure both your healthcare personnel and LTC residents are protected by encouraging flu vaccination as soon as it becomes available.