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BETHESDA, Md. -- The National Foundation for
Infectious Diseases (NFID) has issued a comprehensive report stressing the
importance of annual influenza vaccination among healthcare workers and urges
health care institutions to help facilitate annual employee influenza
immunization programs. The report was issued in response to dismal influenza
immunization rates among health care workers, despite long-standing
recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Unvaccinated health care workers can transmit the highly contagious influenza
virus to patients in their care.
"Alarmingly, only 36 percent of U.S. healthcare workers are immunized
against influenza each year, which means the majority of health care workers
remain unprotected and may report to work when they have influenza and can
easily spread the virus to patients," said William Schaffner, MD, NFID board
member and professor and chair of the department of preventive medicine at
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "NFID urges healthcare
organizations to recognize annual health care worker influenza vaccination is
an important infection control measure and patient safety issue."
The comprehensive report, Improving Influenza Vaccination Rates in
Health Care Workers: Strategies to Increase Protection for Workers and
Patients, provides details about the overall impact of influenza among healthcare workers and shares data regarding the lack of knowledge among healthcare
workers about influenza immunization and its impact on patient safety.
There are many benefits of healthcare worker vaccination, the report
states, including decreased illness leading to reduced absenteeism among
health care workers, as well as reduced medical visits and antibiotic use.
The benefits to patients, however, are even greater. Immunization of healthcare workers has been shown to reduce mortality among geriatric patients in
long-term care facilities. In fact, healthcare worker immunization can help
reduce the risk of influenza outbreaks among patients in all types of healthcare facilities.
"Healthcare worker immunization is an employee and patient safety
imperative," said Kristin Nichol, MD, MPH, chair of NFID's National Coalition
for Adult Immunization Advisory Committee, professor of medicine at the
University of Minnesota and chief of medicine at the VA Medical Center in
Minneapolis. "Unvaccinated healthcare workers can introduce influenza into a
facility or propagate an outbreak. As healthcare providers and employers, it
is our responsibility to follow the same advice we give our patients: receive
an annual vaccination to help protect against influenza and its serious
Healthcare workers infected with influenza can transmit the disease to
patients in their care, many of them at an increased risk for influenza-
related complications. Influenza can lead to increased hospitalization and,
in some cases, even death. On the average, influenza is responsible for
36,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations annually nationwide.
In addition to patient safety, influenza immunization among health care
workers has economic benefits to employers. The report cites one study
showing vaccination among healthy individuals under 65 years of age, which
includes health care workers, is cost effective, resulting in 25 percent fewer
episodes of respiratory illness, 43 percent fewer days of sick leave from work
due to respiratory illness and 44 percent fewer visits to physician's offices
for upper respiratory illness.
NFID's report highlights effective strategies and best practice models
healthcare institutions can employ to improve, update or establish their own
employee vaccination programs and/or policies. The majority of healthcare
facilities with successful immunization guidelines or initiatives incorporate
multiple interventions, such as:
* Securing commitment to healthcare worker influenza vaccination from
* Developing a policy statement affirming the institution's commitment
* Educating healthcare workers about the benefits of vaccination for
themselves and their patients
* Making influenza vaccine easily accessible
* Repeating the influenza immunization program annually
NFID developed this comprehensive resource from proceedings of an expert
roundtable meeting held last November in Washington, D.C. Representatives
from more than 20 of the nation's top health and labor organizations, hospital
chains and government institutions reviewed policies and practices to reach a
consensus on the best ways employers and professional organizations can
positively affect influenza vaccination rates of healthcare workers.
Among the more than 20 organizations that contributed to the roundtable
were the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of
Pediatrics, American Association of Health Plans, American College of
Physicians, American Health Care Association, American Medical Association,
American Nurses Association, Association for Professionals in Infection
Control and Epidemiology, Inc., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, Service Employees International Union, Society for Healthcare
Epidemiology of America and other key stakeholder groups.
In February 2004, NFID and these supporting organizations delivered an
urgent call to action for the medical and infection control communities to
work aggressively toward increasing influenza vaccination among health care
Source: National Foundation for Infectious Diseases