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Joint Commission Resources (JCR) today announced the results of the first-ever Flu Vaccination Challenge, a program launched just prior to the 2008/2009 flu season to help increase flu vaccination among healthcare workers. During the program's inaugural year, JCR challenged hospitals across the country to achieve a seasonal flu vaccination rate of 43 percent or higher among their staff. The goal was based on results from a 2005/2006 national survey of healthcare worker seasonal flu vaccination rates.
With help from the Flu Vaccination Challenge, about 1.1 million healthcare workers were vaccinated against the seasonal flu, and 94 percent of participating hospitals met "the Challenge." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all healthcare workers should be vaccinated to help decrease the spread of seasonal flu to patients, which can lead to serious health risks and even death. However, in recent years, flu vaccination rates among healthcare workers have continued to remain low. JCR is a not-for-profit affiliate of The Joint Commission.
More than 1,700 hospitals -- including at least one hospital from each of the 50 states -- participated in the Flu Vaccination Challenge. Approximately 78 percent of participating hospitals increased their healthcare workers' flu vaccination rate from the previous year. On average, the total number of healthcare workers vaccinated against seasonal flu among participating hospitals increased by 14 percent.
"We are thrilled with the level of participation and enthusiasm from the hundreds of hospitals across the country that participated in 'the Challenge'; however, we believe organizations can do better," said Barbara M. Soule, RN, MPA, CIC, practice leader for infection prevention and control services at JCR. "Despite the encouraging results, nearly 40 percent of healthcare workers among the participating hospitals were not vaccinated and remained unprotected against the flu. Influenza occurs in healthcare settings and studies have shown that healthcare workers are a potential source of these infections."
"All individuals who work in a healthcare facility should be vaccinated against the flu," said William Schaffner, MD, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine and professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "When we talk about whom to vaccinate, we have to change our mindset. Vaccination shouldn't be limited to doctors and nurses, it should be encouraged for everyone who works in a healthcare facility. The flu is a highly contagious disease; therefore if you work in a healthcare setting, you may be needlessly putting patients at risk if you are not vaccinated against this preventable disease."
JCR is introducing a tiered approach to setting this year's seasonal flu vaccination goals. Healthcare facilities will be challenged to reach a 65 percent, 75 percent or 90 percent vaccination rate. The goals were determined by evaluating last year's results and recognizing that most participating hospitals surpassed the national flu vaccination rate. The tiered approach encourages healthcare facilities to strive for a better vaccination rate than achieved the previous year. Those that do will be recognized by JCR for their dedication to keeping their employees healthy and helping to protect their patients. JCR is also broadening "the Challenge" to include healthcare workers in ambulatory and long-term care facilities, emphasizing the importance of flu vaccination and patient safety beyond the hospital setting.
"This flu season, we are encouraging hospitals to participate in 'the Challenge', leading to an increased flu vaccination rate among healthcare workers nationwide,” Soule said. “JCR is committed to providing participants with additional tools and resources to help achieve even greater success."
Efforts to increase vaccination coverage among healthcare workers are supported by The Joint Commission. The Joint Commission requires accredited hospitals, critical access hospitals and long term care organizations to offer the flu vaccine annually on site to staff and licensed independent practitioners. JCR is committed to continuously improving the safety and quality of care in hospitals. The Flu Vaccination Challenge is one way to contribute to this goal by increasing vaccination rates among healthcare workers. Resources for participants in "the Challenge" include a complimentary seasonal influenza monograph released in June by The Joint Commission, a myths and facts fact sheet, virtual poster presentations and audioconference downloads as well as a software program for participants to easily track employee flu vaccination rates at their organization.
The 2009 Flu Vaccination Challenge begins today and will continue through the flu season until March 2010. For additional information regarding how healthcare facilities can help improve their flu vaccination rates, visit www.FluVaccinationChallenge.com.