Joint Commission Establishes Infection Control Standard to Address Influenza Vaccines for Staff

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. -- The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) today announced the approval of an infection control standard that requires accredited organizations to offer influenza vaccinations to staff, which includes volunteers, and licensed independent practitioners with close patient contact. The standard will become an accreditation requirement beginning Jan. 1, 2007, for the Critical Access Hospital, Hospital and Long Term Care accreditation programs.

Preventing the spread of the flu protects patients and saves lives. Encouraging healthcare workers to be vaccinated can play a vital role in stopping the transmission of this potentially fatal infection, says Robert Wise, MD, vice president of the Division of Standards and Survey Methods at the  Joint Commission.

The Joint Commission developed the standard in response to recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) making the reduction of influenza transmission from healthcare professionals to patients a top priority in the United States. While the CDC has urged annual influenza vaccination for healthcare workers since 1981, the CDCs Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published earlier this year calls for stronger steps to increase influenza vaccination of healthcare workers. Despite the recommendations, the vaccination rates as measured by the CDC remain low.

Studies show that influenza causes 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations on average in the United States annually. Furthermore, health care-associated transmission of influenza has been documented among many patient populations in a variety of clinical settings, and infections have been linked epidemiologically to unvaccinated healthcare workers. Typically, fewer than 40 percent of healthcare workers are immunized each year.

The new Joint Commission standard requires organizations to:

·  Establish an annual influenza vaccination program that includes at least staff and licensed independent practitioners

·  Provide access to influenza vaccinations on-site

·   Educate staff and licensed independent practitioners about flu vaccination; non-vaccine control measures (such as the use of appropriate precautions); and diagnosis, transmission and potential impact of influenza

·  Annually evaluate vaccination rates and reasons for non-participation in the organizations immunization program

·  Implement enhancements to the program to increase participation

Source: Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations