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The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) joins the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other healthcare organizations in supporting National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 8-14, 2008. As part of this year’s observance, Friday, Dec. 12, will focus on vaccination of healthcare workers.
The CDC recommends annual immunization for those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease, children aged 6 months to 18 years, adults over 50 and pregnant women. The CDC also recommends annual immunization for healthcare personnel, caregivers of these high-risk groups, and anyone else who wishes to reduce the risk of contracting influenza.
Vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent influenza. Getting a flu shot may also reduce the risk of developing a secondary bacterial infection such as flu-associated pneumonia caused by Staphylococcus aureus or its resistant strain, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This is especially important for young children.
Despite this recommendation, influenza immunization rates fall far short every year. Each year, about 36,000 people die and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized in the U.S. due to influenza and its complications.
In response to the low rates of influenza immunization among healthcare personnel, APIC recently announced its support for requiring flu immunization for healthcare workers who have direct patient contact as well as ancillary staff. APIC further recommended that healthcare facilities obtain informed statements acknowledging the risk to patients from employees who decline the vaccine for reasons other than medical. The recommendations are published in the APIC position paper “Influenza Immunization of Healthcare Personnel.”
“We must do a better job of immunizing healthcare workers every year to ensure patient safety and protect those individuals at high risk of developing complications of influenza,” said Linda R. Greene, RN, MPS, CIC, lead author of APIC’s position paper and director of infection prevention and control at Rochester General Health System. “Despite longstanding recommendations by government agencies and national healthcare organizations, only 42 percent of healthcare workers receive yearly flu vaccines. Voluntary efforts are clearly not effective – it’s time for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to require influenza immunization.”
For additional information on the importance of immunization against the flu and a free toolkit to help healthcare facilities improve their vaccination rates, visit http://www.apic.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Influenza&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=10135.