The National Business Group on Health (NBGH) has issued a strong recommendation that hospitals and healthcare facilities require all of their employees be vaccinated yearly for the flu. The group, which represents mostly large U.S. employers, says requiring annual vaccinations will reduce the risks that unvaccinated hospital and health care workers pose to patients, other employees, and their families.
According to NGBH, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that only 63% of health care personnel reported being vaccinated during the 2010-2011 flu season. Other studies show that one in four healthcare workers shows evidence of having the flu each year and that 70% of healthcare personnel continue to work despite having flu-like symptoms.
The group has released a position statement that says hospitals should require annual flu vaccination of all employees as a condition of employment, unless employees can demonstrate medical contraindications, with physician documentation, or religious objections. The statement also says employees who invoke either of these exemptions should not engage in direct patient care if they have flu-like symptoms. Instead, hospitals should either reassign these employees to non-patient care areas or require them to wear masks at all times during flu season when delivering care to patients.
Transmission of seasonal influenza between healthcare workers and patients is a significant patient and worker safety issue, says NBGH. Failure to prevent the transmission of seasonal flu between healthcare workers and patients also increases healthcare costs.