Joint Commission Resources Challenges Hospitals to Increase Flu Vaccination Rates Among Healthcare Workers

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Joint Commission Resources (JCR) has launched a Flu Vaccination Challenge to underscore the responsibility that hospitals have to help keep their employees and patients healthy this flu season. The Flu Vaccination Challenge is designed to increase flu vaccination rates among healthcare workers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the 2005-2006 flu season, only 42 percent of surveyed healthcare workers received a flu vaccination. In past years, flu infections have been documented in healthcare settings and healthcare workers have been implicated as the potential source of these infections. JCR challenges hospitals to achieve higher vaccination rates among their staff.

The Flu Vaccination Challenge begins in September 2008 and will continue through the flu season until May 2009. Hospitals that achieve a vaccination rate of 43 percent or more will be recognized for their dedication to helping keep their employees healthy and helping to protect their patients. Vaccination of healthcare workers may help to decrease the chances that they will get the flu and pass it on to their patients.

"The Flu Vaccination Challenge highlights for healthcare workers the value that flu vaccinations can have on patient safety. Doctors, nurses, technical and administrative staff may care for patients with compromised immune systems including the elderly and people living with a chronic disease. As a professional devoted to 'do no harm,' flu vaccination gives me an opportunity to help protect my patients by decreasing the chances that I will get the flu and pass it along to my patients," said Barbara M. Soule, RN, MPA, CIC, practice leader for Infection Prevention and Control Services at the JCR.

The flu is a serious disease that can potentially be fatal. The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends an annual flu vaccination for a number of groups, including adults at high-risk of complications from the flu and those who are in contact with them, including healthcare workers. Efforts to increase vaccination coverage among healthcare workers are supported by various national accrediting and professional organizations including The Joint Commission. Since Jan. 1, 2007, The Joint Commission has required accredited hospitals, critical access hospitals and long term care organizations to offer the flu vaccination annually on site to staff and licensed independent practitioners.

"Every year in the United States up to 20 percent of the population is affected by influenza and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from influenza complications. It is crucial that healthcare workers receive their influenza vaccination each year to help curb the spread of this preventable disease," says Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine, and professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

For additional information on the importance of vaccination against the flu and how healthcare workers can help improve their flu vaccination rates, visit

About The Flu

Flu viruses are mainly spread from person to person via airborne particles from coughing or sneezing. Transmission may also occur through direct or indirect contact, such as when touching something already laden with the flu virus, then touching the eyes, nose or mouth. The flu is a contagious and potentially deadly infection. On average over 200,000 hospitalizations occurred each year from 1979 to 2001 as a result of flu and its complications. On average approximately 36,000 persons died each year from 1990 to1999 from the flu and its related complications; more than 90 percent of these deaths occurred among persons 65 years of age or older.

According to the CDC, annual flu vaccination is the most effective method for preventing flu virus infection and its complications. Groups who are at risk of serious complications include people 65 years of age or older, the chronically ill, and women who will be pregnant during the flu season. Importantly, people who live with or care for persons at high-risk of complications (including all healthcare workers) should get vaccinated to help them stay healthy and avoid passing the infection to others.

The beginning, severity and length of the flu season can vary widely from year to year. Vaccination should be given as soon as the flu vaccine becomes available and if possible by October, however, getting a vaccination in December or later can still be beneficial since most flu activity occurs in January and beyond in most years.

Joint Commission Resources received funding and other support from GlaxoSmithKline for the Flu Vaccination Challenge initiative.

Source: Joint Commission Resources, Inc.