The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced enhanced recommendations designed to increase influenza vaccination coverage among healthcare personnel as a way to protect patients and staff from influenza. The new recommendations provide strategies to make vaccine more accessible to healthcare workers and to help facilities better determine coverage rates and the reasons their staff have for not getting vaccinated.
"Currently, fewer than half of healthcare workers get vaccinated for flu each year. When people who work in hospitals and healthcare facilities don't get vaccinated, they can pose a serious health risk to their patients," said CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding. "These
recommendations are designed to highlight the importance of healthcare personnel getting vaccinated each year."
The guidance, drafted by CDC's Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), recommends that:
*Â Facilities offer influenza vaccine annually to all eligible personnel, including students.
*Â Vaccine be offered at the workplace, during all shifts and at no cost to employees.
*Â Hospitals use strategies proven to improve vaccination coverage. These include: education to combat fears and misconceptions about influenza and influenza vaccines, use of reminders to staff, having leadership set an example by getting vaccinated.
*Â Facilities obtain a signed form from staff who decline vaccination for reasons other than medical. This tool is designed to help facilities better monitor who is offered vaccine, employee concerns and barriers to vaccination so appropriate strategies can be designed to improve vaccination coverage.
The recommendations ask facilities to monitor influenza vaccination coverage at regular intervals during influenza season and provide feedback of ward-, unit-, and specialty-specific coverage to staff and administration. Influenza vaccination coverage should be one measure of the quality of an institution's patient safety programs.Â The recommendations also reiterate an earlier recommendation of CDC's HICPAC that influenza vaccination coverage of healthcare personnel be used as a healthcare quality measure in states that mandate public reporting of healthcare-associated infections.
"We want healthcare facilities to be even more aggressive in protecting their staff and patients from influenza," said Dr. Denise Cardo, chief of CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. "Improving influenza vaccine coverage among health-care personnel is vital to patient safety and protects staff as well."
Since 1984, CDC has recommended that all healthcare personnel be vaccinated annually against influenza.Â Influenza vaccination of healthcare workers has been documented to improve patient outcomes, reduce absenteeism and decrease influenza infection among staff. However, vaccination coverage among healthcare workers remains low, at about 40 percent annually. Past influenza outbreaks in hospitals and long-term care facilities have been associated with low vaccination rates among staff.