According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2010 and 2011 during the peak months of the influenza season, an estimated 63.5% of health care workers in the U.S. voluntarily received influenza vaccinations. For health care workers whose employers makes it mandatory to receive a vaccination, more than 92% were vaccinated for influenza. This high number was due in part to “offering vaccinations onsite, free of charge, for multiple days,” usually at the place of employment, such as a hospital or health care clinic (“Influenza Vaccination Information for Health Care Workers”). The CDC also notes that when health care workers receive vaccinations for influenza, it significantly lowers the risks associated with “nosocomial (hospital-acquired) influenza cases” and of course helps to lower “influenza-related illness and even deaths in settings like nursing homes” where the elderly are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of influenza (“Influenza Vaccination Information for Health Care Workers”).
Clearly, as shown by the relatively low number of health care workers that voluntarily receive vaccinations for influenza, a specific plan of action must be devised in order to raise the number of workers to an acceptable level which in a best case scenario should be 100%. Presently, there are two specific methods or actions that can be taken to help increase the number of health care workers in the U.S. that receive influenza vaccinations.
The first method is to make vaccinations for influenza a mandatory practice in all health care facilities. As Babcock, et. al. points out, mandatory vaccination programs
have proven to be highly successfully, particularly at “large multi-hospital health care organizations” that provide influenza vaccinations free of charge to their employees and staff members, along with certain incentives, such as additional holiday pay and in some instances shorter work hours (“Mandatory Influenza Vaccination of Health Care Workers: Translating Policy to Practice”). Also, part of the success of this mandatory program of vaccination is due to the fact that if a health care worker refuses to be vaccinated for influenza, they can be suspended without pay and in some instances can end up losing their jobs “for failure to meet their conditions of employment” which more often than not includes mandatory vaccination (“Mandatory Influenza Vaccination of Health Care Workers: Translating Policy to Practice”).
The second method is education, meaning that all health care workers should be thoroughly indoctrinated in the symptoms, prognosis, and outcomes related to influenza and how the disease can be transmitted. One way to accomplish this would be to create mandatory educational classes at the job site which could be taught by professional health care experts that specialize in diagnosing and treating communicable disease like influenza. This type of educational approach would certainly help to lower the current fears associated with vaccinations by providing factual information and would be of special benefit for health care workers that come directly into contact with patients and their family members.
Overall, making influenza vaccinations mandatory for all health care workers in the U.S. would help to lower costs associated with lost work hours due to illness and
would help to guarantee that patients in hospitals and clinics do not end up infected with
influenza from a health care worker who refused to be vaccinated. However, there are health care workers who refuse to receive influenza vaccinations because of religious beliefs and practices which unfortunately only creates additional problems for hospital administrators and the patients that rely on these workers for treatment and care.
Babcock, H.M., Gemeinhart, N., Jones, M., Dunagan, W.C., et. al.
“Mandatory Influenza Vaccination of Health Care Workers: Translating Policy to Practice.” Clinical Infectious Diseases 50.4 (2010): 459-464. Web. Mar.
21, 2013. <http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/50/4/459.long>.
“Influenza Vaccination Information for Health Care Workers.” CDC. Web. 2011.
Mar. 21, 2013. <http://www.cdc.gov/flu/healthcareworkers.htm>.
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