What Do You Think? –Mandatory Flu Vaccines For Health Care Workers

A recent study about mandatory flu vaccines for health care workers caught our attention. The multi-institutional study found that mandatory flu vaccines improved participation by as much as 30 percent and reduced absenteeism during critical periods of patient surges by about 6 percent.

Previous work focused on the impact of health care worker vaccination on improving patient outcomes. The findings expand the potential benefits of an institutional policy and help settle previous conflicting data on whether the mandatory policies reduce health care worker absenteeism. As seen this year, health care institutions can struggle to care for surging numbers of patients with influenza when the number of workers available is declining due to illness.

 

 

"Studies suggest that higher vaccination rates among health care workers decrease patient mortality and health care associated in?uenza in certain settings," said Dr. Trish Perl, Chief of Infectious Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and one of the study corresponding authors and overall Principal Investigator. "In addition, absenteeism can pose a serious threat to how effectively a hospital is able to manage the surge of patients during an outbreak. Our study shows that mandatory vaccination policies help maintain better staffing levels and staffing options during those critical surges."

Researchers studied the effects over three separate flu seasons at three institutions with mandatory vaccination policies and four institutions that offered optional vaccination. For all individuals studied (4,000-plus health care workers), vaccination was offered free and on-site.

Researchers found that:

At mandatory sites, 97 percent, 96 percent and 92 percent of health care workers received vaccinations in the three years studied.

At nonmandatory sites, 67 percent, 63 percent, and 60 percent of workers were vaccinated over the same period.

Absenteeism among health care workers was about 6 percent lower at mandatory sites than nonmandatory sites, and the number of days absent also was lower.

Males, older workers, and those at nonmandatory vaccination sites had longer durations of sick leave.

Vaccinated health care workers had a 30 percent reduction in absenteeism compared with nonvaccinated health care workers.

"This was a large study across a variety of types of institutions, including pediatric and adult acute care hospitals and VA facilities, which asked whether policies that require employees to get a flu vaccine protected both the employee as well as the institutions," said Dr. Perl, Professor of Internal Medicine who holds the Jay P. Sanford Professorship in Infectious Diseases.

The study, which appears in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, didn't look specifically at whether higher rates of vaccination of health care workers reduced infections among patients, but previous studies have shown that this is true, especially among the most vulnerable patient populations.

The Healthy People collaborative in the U.S. has a goal of 90 percent vaccination rates among health care workers by 2020. The study suggests that goal will be difficult to achieve with only voluntary policies, said Dr. Perl.

What do you think about mandatory flu vaccines by your employer? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

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Rebecca

I also agree with the other commenters that the flu shot should NOT be mandatory. Besides the fact that it is not effective, my other main objective is this…. My patients, their families and friends, and everyone else that steps foot into the hospital where I work, have a choice about whether they get a flu shot. When a patient is admitted, we ask them if they got the flu shot and if not, if they want it. If they answer no, and no, we do not make them wear a mask. They have a right as a patient to… Read more »

Barbara Tilka

I agree so much with Karen Connelly’s response. It’s absolutely ridiculous that healthcare workers are being MANDATED to have the flu shot. So sick and tired of having to fight this every year. I’ve hardly ever missed a day of work because of illness yet every year they are trying to ram it down my throat. I don’t react well to it. Also, see so many people I work with who get sick, cough over patients while they’re working with them yet they are not mandated to wear a mask. There’s something very wrong with this picture.

Vicki

I too know a colleague who ended up on a ventilator in ICU for weeks secondary to Guillain Barre! The flu shot is overly dramatized. Anyone in research can see that these studies are flawed. I’m glad I’m retired now! We have much bigger health issues at hand to worry about.

Mary

The “study” is flawed for starters. I agree with Susan, also, I have an allergy to the vaccine therefore don’t get one I have not had the flu. I don’t wear a mask unless I am entering the room of a patient that standard precautions applies. A colleague received the vaccine last year and had a Gullian Barre reaction. Considering the lack of effectiveness and possibilities for reactions no one should be forced to get a vaccine, especially if the mandate is so the industry can conduct experiments and use their results to push their own agenda.

Karen Connely

How much researchering did this writer do on how the immune system works, immunization, how and why the immune system responds to immunization and the fact that there is proof that the immune system doesn’t always make antibodies to immunization vaccines (which is why the flu shot is made with fillers to trick your system into responding). Did this writer research all the other sicknesses involved (consider we had many employees miss work due to noravirus this flu season, or how about other virus like the common cold? ILI???) How about all the employees who come to work sick but… Read more »

Michelle

Heck no. The pharmaceutical companies are trying to kill us off!!!

Andrea E.

The flu vaccine should not be mandatory. More studies are needed to before making it mandatory. Also studies are needed to show complications that can arise because of the vaccine. The vaccine does not guarantee that someone will not get the flu, every year it is a different strain. Good infection control practices during the flu season can assist in the spread of the flu. Careful thoughts need to be given before it becomes a mandatory.

Deb L

I am NOT for mandatory flu vaccinations. I think I should have the choice of whether to receive it or not and not be “punished” for not getting it, for example, having to wear a mask.

Jean Clark

2 words….. BIG BROYHER.

Susan Niven

Couple of thoughts: there are no long term studies showing what’s happening to the intensity of flu virus as it responds to the change in annual vaccines; seems the coverage is often the wrong strain anyway as evidenced by this year’s epidemic; you should have the right to make the decision if you want it or not based on principle; if I have the PTO, it shouldn’t matter if I use it for illness or on an island.