New JCAHO standard requires flu vaccine

A new infection control standard that will require hospitals to offer influenza vaccinations to staff members, volunteers, and independent licensed practitioners who have close patient contact will take effect Jan.1, 2007, for organizations accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. The new requirement does not apply to ambulatory facilities.

The Joint Commission standard was developed in response to recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that identified reduction of influenza transmissions from health care professionals to patients as a top priority in the United States.

Influenza causes 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations annually, and health care-associated transmission of influenza has been documented and infections have been linked epidemiologically to unvaccinated health care workers, according to the CDC. The CDC also reports that fewer than 40% of health care workers are immunized each year.

While the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care does not have as specific a requirement as the Joint Commission's new standard, Chapter 19 does address health and occupational services offered to employees, says Stephen Kaufman, RN, MA, senior director of accreditation. "If an organization chooses to provide health services, an assessment of risk factors for employees and patients must be performed and vaccinations that should be offered must be identified," he explains.

The new Joint Commission standard will require organizations to:

  • establish an annual influenza vaccination program that includes at least staff and licensed independent practitioners who have close patient contact;
  • provide access to influenza vaccinations on-site;
  • educate staff and practitioners about flu vaccination, nonvaccine control measures and diagnosis, transmission, and potential impact of influenza;
  • annually evaluate vaccination rates and reasons for nonparticipation;
  • implement enhancements to the program to increase participation.